Over a couple of decades since his last original project, Peter Gabriel finally releases his most recent and highly anticipated album. i/o (or input/output) features intense subject matter on areas such as humanity’s position in society, the complicated ethics behind the justice system, the connection between astrology and people, and many other introspective topics. Since the beginning of 2023, a new track has been put out every full moon and a slight (yet impactful) mix of each song has been released on each new moon. This thought-provoking link between space and time is not a concept that is left untouched and is instead constantly referred back to in this existential project.

The extensive amount of time between each single being released allowed them to feel like their own characters, with their own provocative thoughts and personalities present. They ultimately end up coming together as a whole and make complete sense now that the entire album has been released. The production on the ‘Bright-Side Mix’ is completely and creatively versatile for every track, which works very well in making the first half of the project feel diverse. However, the ‘Dark-Side Mix’ is slightly less impressive as I occasionally feel as though these mixes are trying to sound too different from their corresponding songs. Nevertheless, the album remains a great contribution to Gabriel’s already impressive 46 year-long album discography.

The first track on the album is ‘Panopticom,’ which is a gloomy-sounding opener that tackles whether the great powers of society should be observing their people’s every move or if life would be more ethical if the roles were reversed. The song also does a very good job in allowing the listener to soak in how Peter’s vocal ability has not deterred with age, and instead remains as intact as it ever has. It is a great face-first representation of what the ‘Sledgehammer’ artist is capable of in the 2020s. The style of production on this track does sound slightly outdated at times within both mixes, which is likely to do with the fact that it has taken more than 20 years for the album to be released. Despite this, ‘Panopticom’ easily acts as a solid argument against any claim that Peter Gabriel may have lost his creative touch at the age of 73.

Without a doubt, the best song on the album is the gentle and simplistic ‘Playing for Time.’ It is unlike any other counterpart on the album, with it instead embarking on a slow-paced pop-ballad sound rather than complex production seen on other tracks. The emotion carried within Peter Gabriel’s voice adds to the hard-hitting lyrics about the reflection of human life, unpacking memories, and the philosophy of constantly moving on with time. The orchestral instruments on the ‘Bright-Side Mix’ for this track is what makes this beautiful song shine in all its glory.

Overall, i/o is a fantastic album to top off the end of 2023. Even if Peter Gabriel’s previous output in the 1980s is collectively and constantly receiving more praise by the day, this record perfectly fits into his remarkable discography, not as a new release made by a washed-up artist, but as a creative and new direction from an all-time legend. Despite the project taking more than two decades to fully come to life, I still feel that it was worth the wait. With the LP excelling in its diverse production, inventive mixes and sombre lyrics, I certainly hope Peter does not keep us waiting for quite so long with any future releases he has to offer.

Peter Gabriel: i/o – Out 1st December 2023

by Joel Sutcliffe

Gabriel – Playing For Time (Dark-Side Mix) (youtube.com)