Peter Gabriel: i/o – A late addition to your albums-of-the-year list

There are two mixes of the 12 tracks: the Bright-Side (by Mark Stent) and the Dark-Side (by Tchad Blake)

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Artist: Peter Gabriel
Genre: Art-pop
Label: Real World

There is a lot to take in with Peter Gabriel’s first album of original material for more than 20 years. For starters, there are two mixes of the 12 tracks: the Bright-Side (by Mark Stent) and the Dark-Side (by Tchad Blake). “Rather than choosing only one of their mixes to release,” Gabriel explained, “I have decided that people should be able to hear all the great work that they are both doing.” Such an attentive approach is indicative of Gabriel’s standing in the art-rock pantheon.

Now 73 years old, he left the original prog-rock version of Genesis in 1975, releasing his debut solo album two years later. Since then, Gabriel has forged a singular career as a forward-thinking, technologically aware artist (and human-rights activist), managing the not inconsiderable parallel feat of releasing highly regarded, commercially successful music while adhering to his artistic principles.

As suggested by the time Gabriel has taken to follow Up, from 2002, he takes his work seriously and meticulously. Initial production work for the album began as far back as 1995; the real work on i/o began in 2021. The outcome is a 10-track suite of songs that unites the (perceived) clinical output of art-pop with the thoughts of a person who has in the intervening period lost his mother, who died in 2016, and cared for his wife, who that same year was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The mood throughout, then, is mostly contemplative, yet the album is adorned with the sonic depth that admirers of Gabriel’s music would expect. Songs such as And Still (“I wander around the house in which we lived, cupboards full of coats and hats, your presence everywhere”), Playing for Time (“One by one the voices silenced, for they know that time will tell. It’s time that wears the crown and time that rings the bell”) and So Much (“The body stiffens, tires and aches in its wrinkled blotchy skin, with each decade more camouflage for the wild-eyed child within”) form the spine of a beautifully melancholic album. On occasion, songs hark back to Gabriel’s funk-pop years – The Court and the Sledgehammer-adjacent Road to Joy are the summery additions to the album’s late-autumn sensibilities – while the final track, Live and Let Live, is as elegant a prog-pop song as you’ll hear.


And those two mixes? It depends on your ears, your attention span and what kind of equipment you listen to the music on. They’re two sides of the same coin, but either way i/o is a (frustrating) late addition to your albums-of-the-year list.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture