Peter Gabriel has always been at his best when he explores his almost existential sense of dread. But it wasn't till his third solo album that he gave the paranoia free reign. While the first two albums seemed more self consciously eccentric, PG3 dropped the quirkiness in favor of characters that were scary and foreboding.
"Intruder" sets the stage for the rest of the album. Having removed all the metal percussion from the studio, the forbidding sounds of the drums and the creaking scratch of the piano string remain one of the most frightening introductions to kick off an album. It was also an environment that Gabriel held through the duration of PG3, be it from the alienation of "Family Snapshot" to the slyly political "Games Without Frontiers;" that atmosphere of impending disaster sucks you in.
This was also the album where Gabriel discovered the earthy rythms that became central to his future albums. Both "Intruder" and "Not One Of Us" take a significant amount of their edge from these arrangements, and producer Steve Lillywhite knew exactly how to make that kind of percussive sound work in favor of the artist. Perhaps it is best exemplified by "Biko," one of the finest politically tinged songs of the eighties and one that still holds up well today. "It was business as usual in police room 619" Gabriel informs us, as chants and drums give us a greater sense of place. It's a relatively simple sound with a softly delivered message ("the eyes of the world are watching now"), and brings PG3 to a satisfying and emotionally charged conclusion.
The remaster really does make a difference for this CD, and I already consider this Peter Gabriel's high water mark. But it's also the first of three five star recordings, and a great place to start.