Scratch My Back - Peter Gabriel
Scratch My Back Image

Generally favorable reviews - based on 21 Critics What's this?

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 38 Ratings

Your Score
0 out of 10
Rate this:
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
  • Summary: "Scratch My Back" is Peter Gabriel's first album in eight years--and the first in a series of releases--in which Gabriel covers the works of his favorite artists in exchange for his own collection of covers by those artists in the forthcoming album, "I'll Scratch Yours." The tracklist includes Arcade Fire's "My Body Is a Cage," Bon Iver's "Flume," David Bowie's "Heroes," Lou Reed's "The Power of the Heart," Paul Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble," and Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" to name a few. Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 21
  2. Negative: 1 out of 21
  1. The result of this is that many songs here, like Elbow's Mirrorball, are fairly modern, and Gabriel rarely dips into the obvious rock canon (Heroes aside). And the sparseness of the arrangements around the singer’s tender vocals makes this a thing of beauty.
  2. 80
    Drum and guitar free, with stark string orchestration, this imaginatively selected and sequenced collection achieves such a haunting consistency of tone that its spell lingers long after the speakers fall silent.
  3. 80
    But perhaps the most effective retread is Talking Heads' "Listening Wind": Gabriel removes the funk, parks the dance, and leaves the words to do the work.
  4. Mostly, it works well. Intriguingly, Gabriel fares better with more recent material.
  5. It's a decent enough, darkly-shaded mainstream pop album, but the concept is distracting.
  6. Is this the groundbreaking work we'd perhaps hoped for during the album's initial release, an effort worthy of that preliminary giddiness? Sadly, no. Is it an interesting mix of tracks that confronts listeners with reimaging of songs so deeply tied to our heart strings we have no choice but to carefully imbibe and evaluate each note? Sure.
  7. As with all covers records, the crucial issue is whether these renditions bring anything new to these songs. The answer is a resounding no.

See all 21 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 16
  2. Negative: 6 out of 16
  1. ManuelF.
    Mar 2, 2010
    Gets better and better everytime you listen to it. not just any album of covers, fantastic rendition to an eclectic selection. Masterpiece
  2. Steve
    Mar 3, 2010
    I was at first skeptical about this release, but upon listening to it about a dozen times I am floored by what Peter has done. He has very carefully extracted the songs' essence and let the words and raw melody do the talking. Listening to the originals of Listening Wind, Apres Moi, My Body Is A Cage and others it is clear the original were way too over-produced. Expand
  3. StephaneS.
    Mar 2, 2010
    Great great cover album by visionary artist. Thanks once again Peter for this piece of art!!
  4. JetS
    Mar 5, 2010
    An orchestral covers album from an aging prog rocker? Not surprisingly, "Scratch My Back" is, by turns, brilliant and odd. It's a sparse, stark, elegiac album of minimalist compositions that deliberately takes the listener out of his comfort zone. With Peter's cracked, soulful vocals hanging on John Metcalfe's sharp, aural landscapes, "Back" wears its concept like a fragile exoskeleton. It's a mournful and sometimes-thrilling performance that sacrifices synth for strings, easy hooks for meditation and gloss for exposure. It's an effect that works stunningly on the album's most transformative tracks -- Arcade Fire's "My Body is a Cage" and Talking Heads' "Listening Wind." The instruments simmer and soar under, not over, the rhythmic gravel of Peter's voice. In fact, "Cage" probably deserves comparison to Johnny Cash's "Hurt" in terms of passion and performance. No longer a tale of youth-fed angst, the song becomes an explosion of aged apprehension and disquiet. Peter's voice is so clear and fearlessly imperfect that he could be singing in a dark, haunted wood or in your own hallway. Yes, the concept here is tenuous, but "Back's" successes are many. "Mirrorball" and "Book of Love" are gorgeous and lush, and "Heroes" is a wonderful, slow burn. The album's biggest revelation, though, might be "The Power of the Heart." A mostly unknown and beautifully written Lou Reed song, "Heart" was ripe for discovery. Once you've heard Peter's rendition, you'll wonder why you've never heard it before. But the album's imperfections are hard to ignore. It's difficult to sustain an entire disc of mostly-morose chamber music. In fact, I guarantee that many of these songs will reveal themselves most fully when thrown onto a mix tape, shuffled into a playlist or featured among the rock and electronica on a movie soundtrack. And it doesn't help that the last two songs, "Philadelphia" and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)," seem less like thread-bare confessions and more like off-key whimpers. Only in the final 8 or 9 minutes of this stunning, one-hour album does the exoskeleton finally start to buckle. For every person who calls "Scratch My Back" moving, meditative and poignant, there will be someone who calls it overwrought, ponderous and contrived. You may absolutely adore these lovely bones, or you might resent them. Just do yourself a favor and shuffle a few of these tracks into your playlist. You might be surprised. BEST TRACKS: "My Body is a Cage," "Listening Wind," "The Power of the Heart," "Mirrorball" Collapse
  5. TomB
    Apr 7, 2010
    There is not a single song on this album that was made better by the voice of Peter Gabriel! I always thought that the man could do no wrong...and then he released this schlock! Simply HORRIBLE! Expand
  6. AngelaB
    Mar 4, 2010
    Very boring.
  7. K0O
    Jan 11, 2011
    As a long-time Gabriel-fan, I am very disappointed with this album. Extremely boring arrangements. The feeling of the original songs are not there, not even in another form or shape. PG, please make a real album with good arrangements and your own songs. Expand

See all 16 User Reviews