Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1971 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Mr. Mustard
4 stars Pawn Hearts is another essential album from the band, and is a logical progression in the sound and style from the previous albums. This one is very much identical musically to the previous, with a large focus on complex instrumentation, diverse song structures and instrument use (with the Sax taking the primary role), and Hamill's exuberant, theatric vocal delivery. This time around however, the music is divided into three longer tracks, all of which are special and exciting in its own way.

'Lemmings' and 'Man-Erg' are classic VDGG songs. Neither conforms to any form of simple structure, yet also manages to keep interest due to the repetition and development of their melodies. The instrumentation is also complex, especially rhythmically, with tons of odd time signatures, for example the aggressive 11/8 riff beginning at around minute three of 'Man-Erg.'

But the real treat here is undoubtedly the massive epic, 'Plague of the Lighthouse Keepers.' I've always viewed this as the band's answer to Genesis's 'Supper's Ready.' Both represent the pinnacle of musical creativity and musicianship, but also have a similar length and song structure. The song is mostly through-composed, that is to say much of the music is different from section to section, with few repetitions. What this really means though, is that the song is just jammed with one great melody after another. To say this is a diverse song would be an understatement; the number of tempo and intensity changes throughout is what makes the song as good as it is. The dramatic change from the beginning 8-minutes of aggressive Sax and vocal work, to the mellower, atmospheric section, and then back again to the more uplifting, intense, all-over-the-place section to follow is the perfect example. Not to mention the gorgeous Sax melody about 14-minutes in, and the exciting ending. It truly is a rollercoaster of different sounds and emotions that the band doesn't seem to achieve with any other song as much as this one.

Overall, Pawn Hearts, along with Godbluff, is the definitive Van Der Graff Generator album. The compositional genius that embodies each song is astounding. And despite my lack of fondness for the band's overall sound, and despite my relatively low score, I believe this is a must listen for any prog fan.


Mr. Mustard | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password


Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives