Monday, May 31, 2010

Peter Gabriel still haunts me

The dawn of my environmental consciousness came from pop culture, and I partly blame REM, 10,000 Maniacs, and Peter Gabriel. All of them wrote and recorded songs in 1986 that helped shape the questions I still ask in my own work 25 years later.

I had no idea this performance ever occurred. I found it by accident after hearing "Solsbury Hill" on Pandora and then looking for a video on YouTube. I'm supposed to be reading some John Thellwall for my archive chapter, but instead, Peter Gabriel got in my head and won't let go.

"Red Rain" is ambiguous on many levels, as is all the best of Gabriel's work. The rain can serve as a metaphor for guilt, trauma, emotional release, or sexual awakening. But I always read such conceits through my twin lenses of Marxism and environmentalism, and this habit is my greatest weakness as a critic. In this case, the acid rain / nuclear fallout imagery of the metaphor's vehicle breaks open a whole other tenor with the lines "I come to you, defences down / With the trust of a child." The speaker alternately flees and embraces the rain; what it portends, not even he can say. But there's an intersection in this song between psychoanalytic criticism and environmental catastrophe, an interplay that motivates much of the work of my dissertation Chair.

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