Peter Gabriel’s solo output slowed considerably since the early 1980s; it took him six years to follow So with Us, while Us‘ successor Up took a further ten years. Gabriel’s painstaking efforts are fully justified in the results of Us, with evidence in its tight construction and many layers of sound. Us is Gabriel’s divorce album, so there’s a strong emotional undercurrent; there’s an inherent pain and loneliness to ‘Come Talk to Me’ and ‘Love to be Loved’, captured by Gabriel’s expressive voice. Parallels with Adam and Eve haunt ‘Blood of Eden’ and ‘Secret World’, while a Biblical image of cleansing is referred to in ‘Washing of the Water’.
Gabriel also doesn’t neglect to provide accessible entry points to Us; ‘Steam’ is the obvious single, driven by Levin’s bass line, but ‘Digging in the Dirt’ and the phallic ‘Kiss that Frog’ are also upbeat and catchy. Us is a coherent album with a consistent ambient world beat atmosphere, although there’s ample variation in the form of the upbeat material and the country flavoured ‘Washing of the Water’. Other highlights include the gorgeous ‘Blood of Eden’ and the satisfying closer ‘Secret World’. The only real fault with Us is that some of the material is a little uninteresting: ‘Fourteen Black Paintings’ and ‘Love To Be Loved’ have nice atmosphere, but don’t justify their long running times as well as the rest of the songs do.
Despite these Us is an immensely fulfilling album, and ranks as Gabriel’s most under-rated effort.