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. Some songs aren’t considerably different tonally than the original versions -- this is particularly true of the So
material, with “Mercy Street” and “Red Rain” seeming no different in their transition from Synclavier to symphony -- but the ones that are heavily reworked, such as “San Jacinto” and “Intruder,” are startling, rearrangements that seem to give the songs a new set of bones. New Blood
isn’t always as astonishing but that’s fine: the faithful adherence to melody on “Don’t Give Up” and “In Your Eyes” functions as something of a palate cleanser, and even when the album isn’t risky it’s always quietly absorbing.