Instead of just dropping his first album of new material since 2002, Peter Gabriel has spent a year parcelling it out, a new song for each full moon. Finally assembled, i/o is a substantial late work from the ex-Genesis frontman, considering the human condition with genial positivity, wit and gloriously well-preserved vocals. Each song has a “Bright-Side” and “Dark-Side” mix, although Gabriel’s generosity of spirit isn’t something that can be mixed in or out of the music, as it brightens every corner of i/o.
The album keeps circling around images of earth and water, gently obsessed by living, ageing, death, how things were before us and how they’ll go on without us. Information, technology, religion and money recur as elemental forces that flood the earth or set it on fire, especially on typical Gabriel effortful funk tracks such as Panopticom and The Court. Pop fans will appreciate i/o and Olive Tree bearing his biggest, air-punching choruses since 1986’s So, but the quieter moments are strong too. The magnificently eerie Four Kinds of Horses is the record’s peak, while maternal elegy And Still feels like the most open, vulnerable song he has ever sung.