Peter Gabriel had been away from his former band now for five or six years and had started to explore world music shortly before the release of this album. The sounds that are produced on 3 certainly show that influence, as PG asks drummers Jerry Marotta and Phil Collins to play without cymbals. This also contributes to a darker and moody ambience on the album, while retaining a beat consciousness throughout.
Gabriel’s decision to open with “Intruder” is a smart one. It is creepy and scary, with lyrics speaking of a prowling cat burglar going through all your stuff. It features a recognizable drum pattern by Collins and eerie scraping guitars, most likely from David Rhodes, though Robert Fripp(King Crimson), Paul Weller(The Jam) and Dave Gregory(XTC) all play on the album as well.
Most every cut on 3 is stellar, but I have a few favorites like “I Don’t Remember” about a person with amnesia and featuring remarkable work from Chapman Stick player Tony Levin on one of his first recordings with this instrument. I remember an extremely freaky video that was released with this song as well. “Family Snapshot” is about an assassin preparing and succeeding in his mission to shoot a public figure. It easily flows through three distinct parts, arriving finally at a lament for lost parental love that led this killer to the path he took.
There is a great rocker about alienation “Not One of Us,” a song about the needlessness of war “Games Without Frontiers,” and a cry for social injustice with “Biko.” This song is especially important as it would bring the listening public to understand where Peter was going with African chants and tribal beats that he would explore even more fully on future recordings.
This is without a doubt my favorite Peter Gabriel solo recording. Gabriel is writing more personal and literal since leaving Genesis, abandoning the impenetrable lyric. These are great original sounds, unique songs and structures that would set a template for some of the best music of the 80s with recording by Talking Heads, XTC, Paul Simon, Oingo Boingo and King Crimson.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on January 8th, 2011