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Van Der Graaf Generator - Still Life CD (album) cover

STILL LIFE

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.28 | 1010 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Evans
5 stars Definitely top 5 material.

I'm not sure if i like Still Life or Godbluff better. I can't really tell anybody that Still Life is the better album or not, but i do know that it has meant more for me, personally. That

Musically, i would say that Still life is more Keyboard-heavy than Godbluff, but that there is less of David Jackson's fantastic sax- and flute-playing. Once again, the lyrics deal very much with the concept of loneliness, but they are much more existential than on earlier albums. In "Pilgrims" Hammill sings of how loneliness is a path that "all of us pilgrims" must walk, and that while we might be alone, we're not worthless, for he "knows in a purpose". It's definitely the most uplifting song i have ever heard on the subject, and the way Peter delivers the words are more powerful than ever.

The title track starts out very soft with Peter singing and Hugh playing organ, but intensity grows and halfway through it breaks loose and Jaxon gets his chance to really shine. Lyrics deal with the idea of eternal life and how... well, boring it would be to live forever. Good lyrics for being a rock song, but i'm not sure it would do on it's own.

La Rossa starts at once with keyboards which are all over the place, and then Hammill begins to sing. It does not take long before the song gets going for real, and then it pretty much rocks out for all of the 10 minutes of it's duration. A very emotional song, in which Peter compares himself to an organ monkey because of how he just keeps up the dance, chained, without having the guts to try change his life by declaring his love to a female friend for fear of losing her friendship. Eventually, though, he realises that he would give up "all the friendship and the trips" for "the warmth of your body, the more vidid touch of your lips". I think that practically everybody can identify with this song, and it's very powerful, and sort of uplifting in the same way that "Pilgrims" is.

My Room (waiting for sonderland) is another great tune, definitely one of my top 5 still life tunes. Perfectly located, sandwiced between thw two most intense and powerful tracks on the album, it provides a chance to breathe out and enjoy the softer side of Peter Hammill's voice. "My room" does not progress like other Vdgg-songs, but it's never dull nontheless, David Jackson's saxophone is great here, giving emphasis at just the right places and giving the song just the tension it needs. Lyrics are about loneliness and longing for another life, hoping for someone to come and take you away, while at the same time knowing that it might never happen.

Childlike faith in childhood's end will probably be many people's favourite track off "Still Life". Once more, the lyrics are very existential, dealing with the matter of believing in a higher purpose in life, and how to go on living with the belief that this is not all that there is, waiting for a sign but never seeing one, as well as the realisation that, if there is indeed a grand plan, we are only the pawns and must go on as best we can while everybody else does the same, and then one day, there will be "a time for the pilgrims and a time for the fakers too, a time when we shall all stand alone and nude, naked to the galaxies". Musically, it is very thick, even more so than La rossa, and as an album closer it does it's job perfectly, with one of the most powerful endings ever. The very last lines has peter singing with the sme force with which he uttered the words "how strange my body feels impaled upon the arrow" in "Arrow" off the previous album. When the album is finished, i'm almost physically exhausted from just listening to him. It also has a certain similarity to "Sleepwalkers" on the same album in that it contains an instrumental break that might seem out of place the first few times you listen to it, but just like on "Sleepwalkers", it only serves to give the band even more power when the original groove comes back in. Brilliant.

If i were to compare Still Life and Godbluff, i would say that Godbluff is the better musically, but that Still Life is the winner by far lyrically. Since this is a prog site and us who really listen to lyrics are in minority, i can see why Godbluff is more popular, but since my hero before prog wre Bob Dylan, Still Life is the favourite. Still, if you like Vdgg, you can't really go wrong here. Just don't expect the weirdness of "Pawn Hearts".

Evans | 5/5 |

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