Get it moving, Pete. Tired eyes may not be so kind to another Dark-Side Mix of a track unchanged by the few hours between each release. Peter Gabriel has managed to avoid the novelty of a moon cycle release schedule by maintaining a consistency of quality on the tracks he provides. Lucky man. Through gritted teeth and baffled attempts at coming to terms with his schedule, listeners are left with Gabriel popping up once a month to explain the mighty moon rises and falls, as his tracks do, or something. Playing for Time (Dark-Side Mix) is, as its title would suggest, playing for time. But what time? A second of difference, a brooding thump occasionally observed, what a wild ride.
Still a good track but no reason for it and the issue Gabriel now faces is in revealing his album lineup. Whether that day will come is yet to be seen. Perhaps we as listeners are trapped in a perpetual state of listening to releases dictated by the position and shape of Neil Armstrong’s playground. Tchad Blake engages an even softer, surprisingly cold position for Playing for Time (Dark-Side Mix). The only way to make these mixes work is to listen to them back-to-back. A shame for those without twelve minutes to spare on what is, essentially, the same song. Playing for Time is the only track which majorly benefits from two separate releases, or at least it does if time is given between both listens. Gabriel’s words here feel tender, open and softly spoken, his Randy Newman inflexion lesser on here than it is on the Bright mix.
Instead, he takes charge of his own voice, and powers through with a tone befitting of his vocal range. He still hits those You’ve Got a Friend in Me stylings but they can be forgiven for the impact felt elsewhere. Regardless of those charms and brilliant vocals toward the end of the track, Gabriel does himself no favours with this releasing style. His moon-based antics are of no interest to anyone who followed Bjork’s seasonal venture. It has been said before, it will be said again. Playing for Time still explodes at the end, dictator Gabriel has his hand firmly on what he expects of the song and the mixture to follow, and in effect, it makes two versions useless. Both have the same feel to them but with minor changes in the opening before they bleed into an expected, replicant form.
Whether that is a lack of trust in where his tracks could go or micromanagement of a level former Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte would be stressed by, is unknowable. Playing for Time is still a powerful message to place on a track, but the staggered releases, blindly wandering the halls of a Trello schedule and forgotten about too quickly, are a strange way of doing it. Gabriel staggers these releases out, presumably to buy time before his live shows. He must decide which is to be played. He cannot do both on the album or in the presence of an audience, unless he splits it in half. But then a whole ticket pays for half a show, the Dark and Bright mixtures are still similar, still unconvincing in what they set out to achieve. Balance.