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Peter Gabriel releases first single from his upcoming album "I/O"

It's been a long time since the world was last blessed with brand new Peter Gabriel material. The ex-Genesis frontman released his last album "UP" in 2002. Since then, his newest project "I/O" has been in the making. The album is now finally being released in 2023. Today, on the 6th of January, we got the first single "Panopticom (Bright Side Mix)".

Peter Gabriel's long lost album: "I/O"

The greatest mystery of Peter Gabriel's career has been his eighth studio album I/O which was announced by the time his last album UP was released in 2002. Back then, it was said that another new album by the title I/O could be coming very soon. But then Gabriel toured and toured and when he made his way onto Instagram, he also began teasing fans with regular shots from his recording studio. In October 2022, Gabriel finally stated an album was due to be finished and on the 7th of November, he announced a new tour by the title of I/O which of course immediately grabbed the attention of any fan of his. So, I/O, 20 years in the making, is in fact coming out in 2023. It is speculated that the album's title refers to the opposite poles inside and outsideinput and output with some fans even suggesting that I/O could turn out to be a true double album. That would be a first time for Peter Gabriel late into his career. It is also worth noting that the release schedule for I/O and its singles is attached to the lunar phases. Thus, Panopticom (Bright Side Mix) came out on the first full moon of the year.

The new single: "Panopticom (Bright Side Mix)"

Now, what first struck me was the title of Peter Gabriel's newest single, released today on January the 6th. To be precise, it is the addition of "Bright Side Mix" at the end. This could mean that Panopticom (Bright Side Mix), while being the first song from the new album I/O, is only an alternative mix of what we will get to hear on the full album. However, this is only speculation and the addition isn't even mentioned in any promo text by Peter Gabriel
What we definitely do know is what Panopticom is about. Peter Gabriel is widely known to be a human-rights activist as he co-founded the human-rights organisation WITNESS. WITNESS is now part of a new project in development in which Gabriel seems highly invested since his new song his named after it. The Panopticom will be a universally accessible but personalizable data globe platform. So, you will be able to look at a digital globe – Gabriel also imagines physical equivalents – and it will provide, depending on the region, "meaningful, personal, social, economic and political data along with all manner of scientific and environmental information". This way, Gabriel says, "the data, once it has passed reasonable tests of validity, will be written into the surface of the world via the Panopticom in indelible ‘digital ink‘ so never again should threats to the planet [...] be denied, forgotten or erased".
I find this idea to be very interesting and I can see what Gabriel imagines and hopes. This is perfect fuel for a song to be written about, especially if you're as involved as Gabriel is. In the song, he presents the vision he has for the Panopticom. In his case, it is highly involving human-rights activism. The lyrics leave one or two bitter tastes in my mouth though, as I think they are demystified by the context of the Panopticom being a real-life project. I also can't really get rid of the feeling that the song could kind of serve as an advertisement for the project and the product once it is ready to be published.

Musically, Panopticom is what is to be expected from Peter Gabriel. He doesn't really go to any new places. The song also feels out of time which was already the case for Gabriel's last album UP. Due to the long time Gabriel took to work on the project, it had already aged when it came out. If UP would have been released shortly or only a few years after US, it could've been another groundbreaking Peter Gabriel album. The same could be applied to Panopticom and by extention probably to I/O as well. It doesn't help that I/O features the same few musicians Gabriel has been working with for decades: Tony Levin on bass, Manu Katché on drums, David Rhodes on guitar and Brian Eno on the synthesizers. Don't get me wrong, they are all incredibly talented, but their presence may partly be responsible for Panopticom feeling a little too redundant. Nevertheless, the song lives up to the quality standard of Gabriel's music and it is quite a memorable and impactfully optimistic song with a strong chorus and main guitar riff. I just don't think I'm as interested as I should be with new Peter Gabriel material.

7 / 10