Friday, July 03, 2009

Peter Gabriel's Play

Veteran art-rocker Peter Gabriel has always held a keen interest in developing the myriad possibilities of the music-video medium, working with a variety of directors to present dynamic visual representations of his singular music. No surprises then that Gabriel is rightfully regarded as one of the bona fide pioneers in the field of conceptual music video-making, intrepidly exploring all the potential imagistic aspects of the craft to create a uniquely creative body of work that is still highly resonant and evocative today.

‘Play’ is a comprehensive collection of Gabriel’s video clips over the years, and can more or less be divided into three thematic categories: the arty and crafted, the zany and fanciful, and the just-plain-bizarre. Those that fall into the first grouping include the elegant CGI-based promo for ‘Blood of Eden’, the moody, slightly surreal film for ‘Mercy Street’, the subtly haunting clip for ‘Red Rain’ and the simple but effective video for ‘Don’t Give Up’. Also of note is the video for ‘Washing of the Water’, which is composed of calming, bucolic nature-themed footage, which works rather well, even without a single appearance from Gabriel.

Meanwhile, the assemblage of Gabriel’s more madcap clips here constitute the most stylistically interesting one, the prime example being the seminal, still evolutionary stop-motion animated video for the award-winning ‘Sledgehammer’, which is almost manic in its presentation of various visual oddities. Other promos that belong to this category include the hilariously sprightly claymation-centred film for ‘Big Time’, the psychedelic and colourful video for ‘Kiss That Frog’, and the energetic, kinetic flick for ‘Growing Up’, featuring some nimble CGI-enhanced human acrobatics.

Finally, we come to the third category of promos here, and it’s one that you’ll either love with a passion or hate with a vengeance, depending on how well you handle the more outlandish facets of the music-video experience. ‘I Don’t Remember’ has a video that possesses a decidedly nightmarish quality, with disturbing skeletal nude figures roaming around in a warehouse, while ‘Games Without Frontiers’ combines shots of Gabriel doing some weird facial contortions with footage of nuclear-bomb explosions and pie fights. ‘Shock the Monkey’, meanwhile, is a promo that could have been taken straight from a film shown in a first-year psychological lecture, with disconcerting images of manic, screaming monkeys, vicious, violent midgets, and Gabriel himself prancing around in African tribal face paint and a white tuxedo.

‘Play’ is an utterly brilliant and absolutely essential addition to your Peter Gabriel collection, or any serious rock-music library, for that matter. None of the clips here look remotely dated, and the entire package gets an exceptional sonic boost with the newly minted 5.1 surround-sound treatment, which successfully fleshes out all the minute instrumental and vocal nuances of the music. Fans will also be pleased with the highly informative full-colour booklet, which lists complete video and audio production credits for each clip, representative screenshots, and an illuminating introductory essay from Gabriel himself. All in all, a very necessary Gabriel work of art, and an item that’s bound to spend countless hours in your DVD player.


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