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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Peter Gabriel’s album has, once again, driven me to tears with its brilliance

Real World Records
Peter Gabriel performing on his 2023 tour

Since the mid-1970s when his solo career took off, Peter Gabriel has arguably been one of the most influential musicians of our time. His progressive rock style has always pushed the artistic envelope and he has formed his own definition of musical norms while managing to create poignant compositions that have undoubtedly tugged at my heartstrings. 

After over twenty years without the release of a new piece of work, his new album I/O—which started releasing songs in January but continues to add new pieces—significantly exceeded every expectation I have derived from the notable effort of his previous projects.

The album opens with a fantastic nod to the lively style he’s known for with the track “Panopticom.” Being one of the more upbeat tracks, it fits wonderfully at the beginning as I was found recalling certain aspects of his past songs. The title takes inspiration from the word panopticon—a style of prison with circular walls so one guard could watch every prisoner—and perfectly represents Gabriel’s concept of surveillance. Stretching the idea behind what is right and wrong, he explores the impact if the roles were reversed: if ordinary people had the chance to observe those in power. Shown through the lyrics, “Won’t you show us what’s going on?” and “How much is real?” he disguises his true intentions of influencing the listeners to question what really happens behind closed doors with a unique background voice that had me tapping my foot. 

The fourth track of the record, “i/o,” stands for input/output and is the song that inspired the name of the album. A recurring theme throughout this collection is the belief that everything in life is connected, demonstrated in the words of this chorus, “I’m just a part of everything.” Although “i/o” is a relatively repetitive song with a pretty simple design, the thought behind it and how it connects with all the other pieces is what baffled me. I found it incredibly clever that Gabriel was able to represent an enormous viewpoint in such a way that left me in awe of its intricacy and profound impact.

Gabriel has been known for producing music that is very personal to himself—especially with his last couple of albums. For me, the most intimate song in this list from him is “This Is Home.” He admits his attempts in trying to collaborate with a fellow musician to exchange ideas on this song, but after their advice on creating something addressing staying up all night in a dance club, he decided to take his own interpretation instead. He wanted it to resemble his life. The thing I love particularly about this piece is that it’s universal and the fact that it’s one of the only songs I’ve ever cried to while listening for the first time. Of course, Gabriel had a person and a place in mind when writing, “I know this is home / Home is where I need to be / I know you are my home,” but each individual listener is able to put their own meaning behind them. 

This is just another one of Gabriel’s genius ideas for secretly influencing the listener in an entertaining, almost cinematic, way.

I couldn’t review this record without addressing some of my favorites: “Four Kinds of Horses” and “Playing for Time.” 

The first song, along with its deep and moody quality, has some equally deep framework. Though it takes inspiration from an old Buddhist parable by the same name, the main objective is to evoke wonder about societal beliefs. The chorus is supported by Gabriel’s angelic backup singers who repeat the lyrics, “Four kinds of horses / and four kinds of men,” implying that there are four types of people in this world and everyone falls into one of those categories without reflecting on whether it’s right or wrong for them individually. The verses also suggest and imitate the fear that comes with being different than others and taking your own path, while the bridge discusses a shared sense of vibration indicating it’s more beneficial to look for connections between people than focus on differences. This is just another one of Gabriel’s genius ideas for secretly influencing the listener in an entertaining, almost cinematic, way.

“Playing for Time” is perhaps the most gentle and delicate song Gabriel decided to embrace in the album. We get to see his views on the significance of having vital memories to sort through once you get older; somehow, in his own brilliant way, he manages to connect these ideas back to an important motif of the record: mortality. This track is placed perfectly in this list. Being the third song you hear, it gives you a feeling of what to expect from the rest of the album—especially after following a brighter song like “Panopticom.” I particularly appreciate this track because it beautifully showcases the softer, more elegant side of Gabriel’s voice. He chose to prioritize a simple presentation of his thoughts by complementing himself with a stunning piano and string backdrop. 

Although I’ve gone into great detail already, I found it incredibly difficult to pick a select few songs to express my adoration towards. Once again, Gabriel has outclassed many popular artists of our time with his thoughtfulness and attention to detail and made it impossible to choose a favorite piece.

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About the Contributor
Rowan Szpieg
Rowan Szpieg, Staff Writer
Rowan is entering her first year on The Central Trend as a junior writer. Her love of writing developed in recent years through expressive poetry. Although it is a hobby that assumes a bit of her time already, when she's not sitting back with a new writing piece on her computer, you can find her playing her guitar. Any spare time she has that's not occupied with family or friends is spent learning to play new songs. She also loves to spend her nights under the stars around a bonfire in the summer and laughing too much playing board games in the winter. Rowan is always up for a movie night as a way to share her interest in film. When she's not watching a movie, she has Friends playing in the background on every occasion.   Comfort movie: The Proposal Favorite time of the year: When Christmas music starts to play Favorite book: Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom Favorite song to play on guitar: Don't Think Twice, It's All Right by Bob Dylan Has she shortened her watchlist of movies? Not at all! It's still over 300

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  • G

    Gordon BernsteinNov 16, 2023 at 8:17 am

    I think I/O has sone excellent songs and visuals. I also loved the fact that he played most of the album in your. He could have easily played a greatest hits tour and we would be happy. My personal favorite of the new album is The Court.

    An innovator and always an original.

  • M

    MoriNov 16, 2023 at 5:50 am

    The project is a «living being», and goes beyond without leaving any behind.