Without any doubt, this album was ahead of its time!
I'll first start with 'Games Without Frontiers.' This track perhaps is the best Electronic Pop track of the 1980s. Listen to this with your headphones and you will be blown away. When artists of the era were pumping their Modular Synths full of Reverb so that one note sounded like an entire orchestra exploding, Gabriel kept the cold and robotic raw tone of the electronics subtle and intricate. The sparse and frigid bass driven tone of this track is almost akin to some Drum and Bass tracks of the late 1990s. The mix of programmed rhythms and electronic sounds with acoustic drums and instrumentation gives this track a layered syncopation that often blurs the line between both and keeps the entire composition full without creating the cacophonous melodrama we have come to expect of 1980s Electronica. The composition of tonally disparate musical phrases and subtle production on this track is hands down superb and revolutionary. It's perverse to think that this track is filled with such experimentation yet it is somehow so catchy that your Grandmother might actually start whistling along. There are even Break Beats in it!
The stigma of Gabriel being known as an "Adult Contemporary, Light FM" artist has closed many people's ears to his work from prior to So. This third album however, is nothing of the sort and is perhaps one of the darkest pieces of music to come out of the decade. Gabriel speaks to you as the Modern Bureaucratic Man and dives deep into his perversions and eccentricities with a clever, decidedly British manner. On Third/Melt, whatever you want to call it, the listener is taken on a journey which is undoubtedly a commentary on the general psyche of the era but also a Futurist Art Piece grounded in an Historical, almost Folk understanding of our society.
To mix the Political, Psychological, Kitch, Provincial, Futuristic and Ancient fluidly into a cohesive album is no easy feat. Many artists have tried but so few have succeeded in their attempts. Just take a listen to Lauri Anderson, Talking Heads, Eno, Bowie, etc. They are all amazing artists but none have managed to mix the common with the obscure without sounding ironic or condescending in some way. Gabriel fuses them perfectly here.
- Michael Martarano