Release Date: Oct 11, 2011
Record label: Real World Records
“I think music has a natural tendency—or any sort of creative thing—to evolve, and although I guess in the digital world, you can just press play and things will sound exactly the same, I don’t think that’s very interesting to people. I think it’s more interesting when it does change and can go wrong.” – Peter Gabriel, from our Paste interview. Musicians are a peculiar, finicky type—always trying to box themselves in, always reacting (often in complete opposition) against the last artistic move they just made.
On paper, New Blood -- which features orchestral versions of Peter Gabriel’s best-known songs – simply shouldn’t work. There are just so many ways for something like this to go wrong: sacrificing percussive momentum for grand pseudo-classical ambitions, smothering the material’s original intensity in a blanket of billowing strings, pushing already expansive compositions over the line into pomposity... you name it.
Almost every one of Peter Gabriel’s best-laid plans winds up going awry, and so it was with Scratch My Back, his 2010 collection of orchestral covers of some of his favorite songs. He had hoped to have the artists he covered return the favor by interpreting his songs but that project never got off the ground, so he pursued New Blood, an album where he turned that orchestra upon his own songs. New Blood is in every way a companion piece to Scratch My Back; it’s cut from the same aesthetic cloth, it's austere and cerebral without being chilly, it finds emotion within intellect.
Last year, Peter Gabriel gave us the superb Scratch My Back, a cover songs album intended to be the first part of a sort of mutual appreciation project. Gabriel’s grand plan was that his record would be later joined by another release featuring the artists whose tunes he reinterpreted, doing him the same favor with his material. However, that intended companion album has since stalled, so for his latest LP New Blood, the musician has decided to pick up the fumbled ball and carry it to the goal line by essentially covering himself.
Where last year's Scratch My Back saw Peter Gabriel remodelling some of his favourite songs by other artists with just voice and orchestra, New Blood – as its title implies – sees his own back catalogue getting the same treatment. Tense, brooding and often raw, the artist's world-wearied voice is cast off against a dramatic backdrop, the results not unlike a darker take on Elbow's experiment with the Hallé Orchestra. Rhythm of the Heat gets thundering kettle drums, and San Jacinto quiet orchestral storms.
A string-driven LP swinging between bravado and bleakness, and always beautiful. Chris Roberts 2011 Last year’s Scratch My Back saw Peter Gabriel reimagining his favourite songs by other artists – from Bowie to Bon Iver, Elbow to Paul Simon – via orchestral arrangements. No drums, no bass, no guitars. Taking that exquisite, elegiac work on tour – with the gigantic New Blood orchestra – necessitated adding some of his own material, similarly refashioned.
Peter Gabriel has spent most of his musical career performing a nerve- wracking, if exhilarating, high-wire act. Originally, a founding member of prog-rockers Genesis, then a solo superstar sporting a more tough-minded approach, he’s constantly walking between muscular funk-rock, and stuff that can be terribly arty and jarringly pretentious. With the new release, “New Blood,” he ups the ante on this tightrope walk.