Peter Gabriel – New Blood
As the story goes, Peter Gabriel planned to follow up his last album, an amazingly orchestrated covers album titled Scratch My Back that I can’t recommend highly enough, with an album featuring the covered artists doing Peter Gabriel tunes titled I’ll Scratch Yours. The status of that follow-up seems to be in limbo, which may have prompted Gabriel to simply remake his own songs in the Scratch My Back style, which is to say, through an orchestra. This was a considerably wise move.
This isn’t exactly a greatest hits collection – I’d have loved to hear orchestral versions of “Big Time” and “Sledgehammer,” – but each song on New Blood has been wonderfully redone. I’m not a fan of “Solisbury Hill” as a song – for some reason I always envision hospital dramas when I hear it – but the version here is pretty much the deluxe rendition one would expect. I’m on the fence about this album’s version of “Darkness,” mostly because I really like the menace and beauty of the original, the former feeling a bit diluted here even while the latter is enhanced.
Still, the crawling, seething “The Rhythm of the Heat” could fuel an album’s menace quota on its own, and “Downside Up” could supply the gorgeous and pretty. “In Your Eyes” is given an effective upgrade, whereas “Digging in the Dirt” is turned inside out from smooth beats to scratching strings. “Mercy Street” and “Don’t Give Up” are both soft-spoken, heart-punchingly beautiful songs.
The whole is simply wonderful.
Steel Panther – Balls Out
This is the sort of thing that’s either going to make you grin like an idiot or tear your hair out in offended rage. Classy song titles like “Supersonic Sex Machine,” “17 Girls in a Row,” and “It Won’t Suck Itself” give away the game before the first triumphant chords fall. Balls Out is every inch a collection of slithering sex fantasies of inept metalhead teenage boys from the 80s, earnest to the point of self-parody. (“It Won’t Suck Itself,” for example, is a serious meditation on the danger of rattlesnake attacks.) Still, if this album were playing in the background and one wasn’t paying attention to the absurd lyrics, it would simply be a kickass hair metal album. There’s much more going on here than pubescent boner tomfoolery – though it’s still not really for most ladies, and the morals of those who get it are delightfully suspect.
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