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Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.47 | 2176 ratings

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As someone who prides himself in speaking his mind, regardless of the norms, and likes to denounce hypocrisy with a little wit here and there, I obviously feel a certain proximity with people of similar characters. That is why I enjoy watching and reading British motor journalist/funny guy Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson is, as some know, an overblown, smug character, full of himself, capable of extremely unorthodox behaviour for a man his age. What saves him, making him a much better person than he looks, is the fact that he appears to be extremely self-aware of his character, and the first to ridicule his act, before he does so to others.

His rants about the world in general, and of the motor industry in particular, crack me up every time. I enjoy good-humoured people, and boy, you can't get much more good-humoured than Clarkson - on the day the Oxford Brookes University awarded him an honorary engineering doctorate, some environmentalist prick struck a cream pie onto his face. Clarkson's reaction? "Good shot!" Now, that is almost as funny as the French aristocrat who, after tripping on his way to the guillotine, turned to his executioner and commented "They say tripping is a sign of bad luck".

Obviously, I find Jeremy most at home in the show Top Gear, with colleagues James "Captain Slow" May and Richard "Hamster" Hammond (a proggy name!). Trailer destruction, rubber burning, environmentalist bashing. What else could a man want in a TV show? Playing conkers with trailers? Brilliant! Getting into fights over choice of car? Hilarious! And what breathtaking experiences must the races around Europe be! Sure they contribute to wreck the environment, but then again, who doesn't? (Let he - or she - who has not passed wind cast the first stone.)

Still, there was one series of Top Gear I eagerly followed, in anticipation of The Stig's Power Laps. Not so much for the power laps or the machines being tested, but for the soundtrack, nothing more nothing less than full blown progressive rock. We had Camel, Yes, Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, you name it. Clarkson is, as some know, a bit of a proghead. No doubt, most of these tracks were introduced into the segment by his finger, but it was also on one of the Power Laps that Jeremy lost a few points in my consideration, when he confessed he had little or no love. for Van Der Graaf Generator.

Such revelation strikes me, in a way, as odd. For VDGG too are overblown, unorthodox, in fact most of the things that made Prog so despicable a genre to many. Yet they too are fully aware of their own faults and can make the pomposity ridicule - despite all the drama and apparent seriousness, Van Der Graaf Generator, to me, is essentially FUN band to listen to - and the purported "dark" and "mystical" Godbluff is probably their most histrionic work.

Composed of four tracks all between 7 to 11 minutes long, Godbluff is a victory of eccentricity. Starting with a mellow tone, both in the piano and flute driven music, but also in voice, The Undercover Man it bursts halfway into the keyboard and sax passages that so characterize VDGG, while Peter does his part by adding some more mojo to his own special voice. Is segues quite discretely into Scorched Earth, a songs that adds a dark funkier edge to the album, with the omnipresent Jackson saxophone, the Banton organ and the quintessential vocal changes, just to finish in blissful cacophony, where we can even hear an electric guitar! (Peter's new toy at the time, if I recall). Arrow might just be the more "serious" (if we can call that to any song in this album), a feeling much granted by the theatricality of Peter's amazing pipes. Musically it has ups-and-downs. The ending is especially disappointing, but then again, who cares about that once you begin hearing the fantastic pseudo-baroque opening of Sleepwalkers? This track, the longest and best on the album, is the epitome of fun. It is more than that. It is the epitome of Van Der Graaf Generator theirselves. Baroque followed by Cha Cha Cha followed by space followed by funk followed by metal? That's all of Prog in one song. Genius. Peter sings, shouts, cries, mumbles, hits just every possible register of his voice in this one. What a rush! Sleepwalkers alone is worth the purchase, but then again the remaining material is also extremely strong. If you're new to VDGG, this is the album to get. Bloody masterpiece, this is.

Kotro | 5/5 |


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