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The Nuc plus ultra: the English ghost Peter Gabriel and the Americans of REM

It took Peter Gabriel 21 long years to follow up his album UP.

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The Nuc plus ultra: the English ghost Peter Gabriel and the Americans of REM

It took Peter Gabriel 21 long years to follow up his album UP. Of course, the Briton was not inactive during this period. He recorded a fairly conceptual cover album, and dedicated an album and tour around versions of gems from his own repertoire. And there was also the tour celebrating So's birthday, his greatest success. Announced a year ago, divided into several sequences published on the occasion of each full moon, i/o arrives a few months after its author's last visit to Paris.

Heard in its entirety, the album is astonishing, immediately joining the best pieces of a discography of only ten original albums. Powerful, vibrant, moving, i/o is a sum produced with the complicity of the artist's faithful lieutenants (Manu Katché, Tony Levin and David Rhodes). Available in two versions (a rather bright mix by Mark Stent, and the other, by Tchad Blake, darker), i/o is a collection of songs that are both serious and imbued with optimism. Gabriel, 73 years old, casts his lucid but never detached gaze on the world as it is going (badly), without giving lessons but transmitting hope. Very vocal, ultra-concerned, Peter Gabriel delivers here a late masterpiece. One of those records that only fully reveals itself after a certain number of listens. Enough to wait 20 years before the next one?

i/o (Virgin/Universal Music)

In 1998, fifteen years after the release of their first album, Murmur, the band from the southern United States was at a turning point in their history. The global success of Losing My Religion made this quartet one of the biggest groups of the 1990s, the American equivalent of U2. Victim of a ruptured aneurysm in the middle of a world tour, their drummer Bill Berry subsequently left the group after one last album to become a farmer. Michael Stipe (vocals), Peter Buck (guitar) and Mike Mills (bass) decided to continue as a threesome. The album Up is the result of this new situation.

Trading acoustic drums for machines, REM then took a more electronic and experimental direction, far from the stadium rock of Monster. Up is therefore the sound of a group which reinvents itself, and searches deeply for the strength to continue. That’s what makes this record fascinating. Misunderstood upon its release, little sold, the record has taken on a beautiful patina as this welcome reissue appears. The combined influences of Brian Eno and Brian Wilson make this album unique. The group will stop moving forward after this record. Alongside the box set release of Up, REM's four subsequent albums were released on vinyl. Reveal and Around the Sun, released in 2001 and 2004 respectively, are still boring, but the Americans' last two productions, the aptly named Accelerate and then Collapse into Now, still look good. Separated in 2011 after a final world tour, Stipe, Buck and Mills swore that they would never be taken back and are keeping their word for now.

Up (Craft/Universal Music)

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