Peter Gabriel announced a world tour and (very) long-awaited new album i/o on December 22, 2022. He has since released a new single on each subsequent full moon (a long running conceit of his) via Bandcamp. At this time of writing, he has released four songs slated for the album, with about three versions of each: dueling mixes by mixing engineers Tchad Blake and Spike Stent, and an early demo or band studio session, all featuring longtime collaborators Tony Levin, David Rhodes, Manu Katché, and Brian Eno. Subscribers to what he’s calling The Full Moon Club have also received four full live albums, and several additional rarities from the vaults.
Sounds like a great time to be a Peter Gabriel fan, right? Certainly not if you lurk on The Steve Hoffman Music Forums, a boisterous online home for audiophiles and music collectors. In a rolling thread dedicated to everything i/o, you’ll find a great deal of bitter complaint:
20 years to make a new album and Gabriel can’t decide which mix is betterChemically altered
i keep coming back to this page thinking and hoping there will finally be some ALBUM release news, but just strewn about singles here and there. i haven’t listened to any of them yet, i want the full thing once and for all. i love Peter, but he’s making it hard to be patient lately, hahaMechanicalAnimal6
Maybe he’ll bring two different mixing engineers on tour and play all the songs twice!indigovic
I love Peter Gabriel’s music and am looking forward to this album when it lands but with the exception of the first song, I’m not listening to any others until the whole thing is released and I can enjoy it as a whole body of work.Porkpie
Peter sees more $$$$$$$. To hell with him.Chemically altered
Peter enough of this ‘new moon stuff’ just release the album.wayne klein
VERY good song. Won’t make my all-time top 20 PG songs, but I would expect it to make my 2023 year-end list. I do hope it doesn’t take a whole year to get the entire album a song at a time, though. Looking forward to an announcement of a U.S. tour!AdamW
No denying his continued talent. Though I feel the release cycle reeks of the #Occult!? or maybe that’s the idea?AcidPunk
These are just a few excerpts, but this general negativity is comically out of proportion, and it’s frankly rather depressing to read. If the general tenor online is representative of Gabriel’s fandom right now, then I really worry that the long gap since his last album of new material (2002’s Up) has curdled and embittered his fanbase. I hope I’m wrong, and I also hope Gabriel’s team doesn’t come across postings like the above and conclude that their release strategy is widely hated.
I’m a longtime fan myself, but I wouldn’t say I’m the type to automatically defend his every creative choice. For example, I simply cannot stand “Excuse Me” or “The Book of Love”, I was a little bored by the orchestral projects he undertook between 2010-12, and I’m still in disbelief that the much-desired rarities collection Flotsam and Jetsam was a digital-only release. And I admit that when I read the i/o announcement in December, I rolled my eyes to see former with hard dates but the latter still vaguely described as coming out… sometime… in some form… maybe? I say all this so I hope you won’t think I’m some kind of fanboy apologist who lionizes him.
But right now? Personally, I’m delighted to get new music from him a couple times a month. Over the years, I have spent way too much money and time tracking down imported CDs and vinyl just to collect a few remixes and b-sides. If you had told me that one day I could pay $3 a month to subscribe to a magical service called Bandcamp that would send me at least three new Peter Gabriel tracks a month through the air (or On the Air, as a Gabriel fan might put it), or that I could subscribe to a general streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music and get them for “free”, I would have called it science fiction.
But in a way, Gabriel has been leading up to something like this for some time. He has long spoken of his first four self-titled albums as issues of a magazine called Peter Gabriel, later experimented with print magazine and CD-ROM publications like The Box and Real World Notes, and was an early online pioneer with the original incarnation of the Full Moon Club circa 2002 as a video & MP3 subscription.
I suppose if I were to strain to find something to complain about with regards to the Full Moon Club release model, I might say that I’m a little surprised that Tchad Blake and Spike Stent’s mixes aren’t more different (I would have expected there to be more significant variance in the arrangements and instrumentation, whereas in reality, each engineer evinces different taste and emphasis, not structure, so I have found the contrast between the two to be rather subtle), and I wish that the four included live albums were from more than one tour. But other than that, I’m more than happy to subscribe, and have my digital library regularly refreshed with new Peter Gabriel music for the first time in years.
I would go even further: at this point, I think it would be a mistake to assume that the eventual album itself will be a traditional release. Why would it? Maybe some or none of these mixes will appear on the album at all; perhaps they will be new mixes entirely, and some or all of these tracks may not even make the final cut. Maybe it will be a tight 45 minutes, a multi-disc extravaganza, digital-only like Flotsam and Jetsam, or maybe there will never be a definitive “album” in the sense that we’re used to. In this streaming era, recent releases by Kanye West, Lizzo, and Beyoncé have all been modified or revised after initial release — in the case of West, repeatedly! Maybe there will never be one definitive i/o album to put on your shelf.
At this point, I’m simply unbothered that i/o remains on the horizon. Fans like me have waited two decades since Up, so a few more months doesn’t really matter much to me. It’s worth noting that while Gabriel has been casually promising new music in interviews for years, it’s almost always with a bit of self-deprecating humor (often jokingly saying something like: a new album is coming out in the fall, but pointedly not specifying a year).
He has other professional, philanthropic, and personal interests. It’s true that most of his post-Up musical projects may have been archival and retrospective (Big Blue Ball, Hit, Scratch My Back, the Rock Paper Scissors tour with Sting, Flotsam and Jetsam, Rated PG, just to name a few), and I understand the frustration of fans that want something new. I am one of those too! But I think it’s worth remembering that he has also been busy with projects like Real World Records, WOMAD, Witness, and The Elders. More important than anything, he’s spoken in interviews about becoming a grandfather, and caring for his spouse during an illness.
So to sum up, geez, take it down a notch, everyone! His life has changed, and the music business has changed. The time is long over for artists like him to be obligated to deliver fairly regular albums and tours to honor record company contracts. A few of the old guard (like Madonna and U2) still labor under big contracts, but we live in an era where many other big-name artists like Gabriel have essentially gone indie, and don’t have to do things the old-fashioned way if they don’t want or need to, in order to pay their mortgages and support their families, or support themselves generally as they pursue their other interests.
I’m just happy the time is finally right for Gabriel to finally share some of the music he’s been tinkering with for almost 20 years, and enjoy a victory lap. I wish the online haters could be happy too.
To name a counterexample release strategy that does annoy me: Brian Eno is another of my long-time favorite musicians, but I haven’t yet bought his new album FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE (yes, it’s stylized in one word and all caps). It’s available in numerous formats, but none of them particularly convenient or ideal for me: a 10-track CD, a 10-track LP, a 10-track Blu-ray, an 11-track Japan-only CD, a 10-track digital release on almost every outlet except Bandcamp, a 20-track deluxe digital-only release, plus a 1-track single (an extended version of one of the album tracks). I don’t like buying from the Apple iTunes music store, because of the peculiar way macOS and iOS handle purchased audio files (long story short: differently than ordinary audio files). Qobuz would a good option, but they prohibit VPNs, and I use iCloud Private Relay. A physical edition would also be fine with me, but there is no version that includes all 22 tracks. I would instantly buy any and all new Brian Eno music, immediately on release, if I could simply get it on Bandcamp, as Peter Gabriel is doing.