The concept behind Peter Gabriel’s forthcoming indie rock covers project is an intriguing one: it’s a song swap, Peter singing over orchestral reinterpretations of songs from a staggering list of artists — Bon Iver, Lou Reed, the Mag Fields, Radiohead, Bowie, Talking Heads, etc. — with the intention of creating “a dialogue with the writers,” paving the way for a companion piece in which a string of artists would return the favor. The first installment is Scratch My Back, which Peter put together with Bob Ezrin and John Metcalfe. Our first full listen is this take on Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage,” and unsurprisingly, its gothic bombast is a fine foil for Metcalfe’s symphonic arrangement. It’s the only song from the collection to feature a choir. Gabriel spoke in depth about the cover in this podcast, calling Arcade Fire a “self-contained” universe, and explaining both his take on the song and intention in reworking it. Here it is in Peter’s words, along with the song itself in Peter’s voice, which is something you should listen to fairly immediately:
It took me awhile to really get what [Arcade Fire] were doing, and I think sometimes that’s a sign of quality … I love this [song] title. I have no idea what Win was writing about here. Whatever they were talking about, for me, I got this picture of The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, and it also made me think about relationship moments when you feel totally unable to go into your body properly, and you feel trapped inside and you can’t communicate the way you need to….
It was a big opportunity for John to throw a lot of paint on the canvas, and I was encouraging him to extend some of the big instrumental sections and add some of these crazy triplets, just really push it to the extreme. It’s the only use of the choir on the record, but I think it’s quite a moody color coming in at the end. But it’s a great piece of writing, and I am now a firm Arcade Fire fan, and this was a great way to get to know their work.
The podcast where Peter discusses the project in depth is located here (.xml). Also, you can watch a video trailer for the record featuring select moments from the podcast , an interview with John Metcalfe, and footage from the sessions by clicking this link.
Tracklist aka yes, please:
01 “Heroes” (David Bowie)
02 “The Boy in the Bubble” (Paul Simon)
03 “Mirrorball” (Elbow)
04 “Flume” (Bon Iver)
05 “Listening Wind” (Talking Heads)
06 “The Power of the Heart” (Lou Reed)
07 “My Body Is a Cage” (Arcade Fire)
08 “The Book of Love” (The Magnetic Fields)
09 “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” (Randy Newman)
10 “Après moi” (Regina Spektor)
11 “Philadelphia” (Neil Young)
12 “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” (Radiohead)
Peter will perform in support of this release on The New Blood Tour. It is “Peter Gabriel, an orchestra, no drums, no guitars.” The dates:
03/22 – Paris @ Bercy
03/24 – Berlin @ O2
03/25 – Berlin @ O2
03/27 – London @ O2 Arena
03/28 – London @ O2 Arena
04/28 – Montreal @ Bell Centre
05/02 – New York @ Radio City Music Hall
05/03 – New York @ Radio City Music Hall
05/07 – Los Angeles @ Hollywood Bowl
Check the WOMAD shop for ticket purchase info. The North American dates aren’t on-sale just yet.
Elsewhere, Peter’s teamed up with artists from a different corner of the music world — Linkin Park, Dave Matthews, Alanis Morissette, Slash, the All-American Rejects, Hoobastank, Kenna, Lupe Fiasco, and Enrique Iglesias — on a compilation of unreleased music to raise funding for relief efforts in Haiti. Here’s what it sounds like:
Head to musicforrelief.org to download it, and find a link to a suggested-donation form. As good a cause are there is right now.
Peter’s Scratch My Back is out 2/15 via Virgin. Eventually, he’ll scratch theirs.