Reviewed by Erick Mertz
Together, Peter Gabriel's albums Us and So are the perfect union of 80s adult contemporary and art rock. A founding member of Britain's Genesis, Gabriel's sound is that of an evocative and emotional man constantly navigating the state of love and trust. He can be a taxing listen to some, trapped in the John Hughes "Say Anything" stereotype; for fans of his tender renderings, however nothing can replace these two albums.
First came So and it hit the MTV generation with the force of, well, a Sledgehammer. The song and video were triumphant, giving an up-tempo feel to an album that also featured "In Your Eyes," "Red Rain," "Big Time" and "Don't Give Up." Gabriel's powers to create memorable pop seemed at their peak and the culmination was an international hit, featuring musicians Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson, and largely introducing American ears to Youssou N'Dour.
If So was the darling of an MTV generation, then Us was the more challenging disc, seeing more experimental work than its predecessor. Songs like "Washing In The Water" and "Digging In The Dirt" were obviously not as anthemic as previous singles; when the "Kiss That Frog" video drew on similar elements as "Sledgehammer" it received little comparable attention. To write off Us though is a mistake. It lacks the pop rock gloss that its companion flashed, but musically, it begs the definition superior. The concept behind the album, cited by Gabriel as his dedication to relationships, is much more personal and cohesive. Ultimately, it is more satisfying.
The SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) format utilized on the re-issues of Us and So is a compelling one, but hit or miss really only providing a discernible difference on the highest end stereo in a room with excellent acoustics. For audiophiles, the possible infiltration of this technology using six separate channels and extremely high sample rates should be tempting but it isn't really a boon to the more casual listener.
© 2003 - Erick Mertz