Peter Gabriel’s new album redefines rock

Peter Gabriel made his 2023 debut with his most ambitious album, “I/O,” released on Dec. 1. On Oct. 18, it was announced that a new album of all his singles this past year would be released this winter. Fans of the iconic ‘80s star have anticipated an album featuring new material; a wait that has lasted over twenty years. 

Gabriel seemingly puts himself at the center of his own universe, letting his loyal fans know that he can still bring the house down with hits like “Road to Joy” or “Olive Tree.” Whether you are a new listener or a long-time fan of his work, everyone can appreciate Gabriel’s dedication to creating an album that will surely be remembered for years. 

If you’ve been following the single releases, the songs are not all that new since he’s released them every full moon, with “Panopticom” kicking the year off on Jan. 6.  What I love about the album is that each song has two versions: a Bright- and Dark-Side mix. I found this interesting because it felt like I was listening to a selection of brand-new songs once the album went onto side B. 

The first half is compiled of the Bright-Side mixes, which are my personal favorites because of the more upbeat sound and feel. The Dark-Side mixes have minor tweaks to each song, enhancing the listener’s experience by presenting the song in a brand new way. Having two different mixes on one album sounds like too much, but it could be a creative touch Gabriel wanted to incorporate into this album, one that has been in the works for years. 

Fans will indeed have a favorite mix of each song, but tracks like “Live and Let Live (Dark-Side Mix)” are ones that need to be appreciated more. The final song before the album’s release cuts deep and recounts how difficult it can be to forgive someone who doesn’t necessarily deserve redemption, but leaves the door open for reconciliation. 

While rock is not my genre, I think “I/O” shows us a different side of what rock could be and where it may go. The entirety of the project was written and produced by Gabriel, which I feel is unexpected, especially since he collaborated with so many artists on this record. Gabriel has the creative control to do whatever he wants and is at the point in his career where anything is fair game. 

If he wants to experiment with sound and produce something for a new generation that hasn’t experienced a proper “Peter Gabriel production,” let him! Artists should be allowed to test out different genres, even if it is not their best song on the album. In hindsight, “I/O” allows Gabriel to dip his toes into the sounds of the 2020s and see where he would like to fit in, like a puzzle looking for its missing piece. 

One of my favorite songs off the album would have to be “Playing for Time,” a song that speaks so much truth on getting older, being afraid of what the future holds and how to focus more on the present. Listening to this song as a senior feels cathartic and almost as if someone took a glimpse into my notes app on my phone. While every song on the album almost seems like a love letter to the listener from Gabriel, this one, in particular, seems more personal and is created to show that there is someone who understands what it’s like getting older and how scary that can be. 

With a comeback like Gabriel’s, it’s hard not to enjoy the work he’s devoted himself to for years. The dedication of making a song and mixing it two different times for two very different sounds is not an easy task, yet the musical mind behind “Sledgehammer” apparently can do it all. It’s not often that we’re graced with an artist constantly working on music and to have it be this good, but I guess that’s what you get when you’re a fan of Gabriel. 


4/5 Stars


Featured photo courtesy of @itspetergabriel, Instagram