It's been many years since Peter Gabriel delivered a full album (not counting soundtracks), and after giving Up a bunch of listens, it was well worth the wait. Many of the trademark characteristics from the singer's last few albums are present, but there is an inherent moodiness to many of the tracks here which some may say might have an effect on the commercial opportunities for this CD. It is however, a mature and dense release from one of the best vocalists that ever emerged from the progressive rock scene of the 70's.
The opening track "Darkness" kicks things off in jarring fashion, with loud, industrial guitars from mainstay David Rhodes and angry, effects laden vocals from Gabriel. This track successfully combines elements of hard rock/metal, techno, and ambient passages for one of the most ambitious pieces the singer has ever done. The CD's one perhaps stab at commercialism is the song "Growing Up", which is kind of like a union of "Sledgehammer" with techno beats and funk rhythms. Another funky tune, "I Grieve" , which features great bass playing from Tony Levin, is a fun track with lots of world and urban influences. Some of the material here is quite dark, such as the deep melancholy of "Sky Blue" or the adventurous "No Way Out", but these styles are contrasted nicely with the prog meets jazz/funk of "The Barry Williams Show", which starts out like a leftover from Selling England by the Pound before turning into a modern day funky ditty complete with trumpet lines and pounding rhythms. "My Head Sounds Like That" is a poignant number with yearning, emotional vocals and dense walls of piano and keyboards, while "More Than This" is quite catchy and upbeat featuring programmed drums, melodic piano, and Levin's signature bass licks.
The last two tracks are somewhat of a letdown. "Signal to Noise" features African vocalists and tons of World influences, and "The Drop" is a depressing short vocal oriented piece, but neither one really goes anywhere or ends this fine CD on a high note. "Signal to Noise" might have worked better towards the middle of the CD, but placed where it is might get overlooked for those who do not like the World vocals. There is, however, many great tunes here, and fans will love the fact that there is less radio pop and more dense material than the singer has written in some time. Up is a welcome return from one of the legends of rock, and a candidate for one of the top releases of 2002.