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Peter Hammill - The Future Now CD (album) cover

THE FUTURE NOW

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

3.50 | 219 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars "All the writers watch each other for the way to go, follow each other like lemmings"

Released in 1978, "The future now" finds Hammill realising that he really is now a solo artist. At the same time, he was reaching one of life's milestones, as evidenced by the title of the opening song "Pushing thirty". For those of us including Hammill, who are now somewhat older than that, it is amazing to look back and remember how aged that seemed at the time! By this time, prog was becoming something of a dirty word and Hammill appears to have been conscious of the changing attitudes. Hence he attempts, to some extent, to move with the times.

The lyrics of "Pushing thirty" tell us a lot about Hammill's mind set.

All the writers watch each other for the way to go, follow each other like lemmings - swear they're all waiting for Nicky Lowe to turn out like David Hemmings... Me, I'm pushing thirty and the steady zone, perhaps I should retire, but even if it all deserts me and I'm left alone, I still know that I'm fuelled by fire.

While Hammill is trying his best to sound 100% positive, the underlying message is one of vulnerability and insecurity. The song itself is has a new wave style, with semi spoken vocals and a frantic rhythm.

"The second hand" could almost be a David Bowie song, the vocal style and intermittent sax being understated. Whether "The trappings of success" is autobiographical, or directed at an unnamed celebrity is unclear. It tells the tale of a commercially successful musician who has sold his soul. The track is simple in structure based on acoustic guitar and vocal, but the arrangement it messy and unsatisfactory.

"The mousetrap" sees Hammill once again reflecting on his age, but this time in a more depressive and, probably from his point of view, more realistic way. When I began I had my hopes, believed that I could be a leading light of the stage, but now I've stunned myself to silence, exhausted all my inner rage

It is harrowing to listen to such a young man feeling so old. The song is delivered as a fairly orthodox Hammill ballad, with his emotional singing style which he does not exploit as often as he should.

"Energy vampires" is even more cynical, being a blatant attack on elements of his fan base. Lyrics such "I've got every one of your records, man, doesn't that mean I own you?" show the kind of stress which ultimately led Roger Waters to write "The wall". "If I could" indicates that the problems Hammill was addressing were not all music related, the song being a very personal eulogy for the end of a relationship. Once again, the song is delivered in reflective, ballad fashion.

As if Hammill did not have enough problems of his own, the title track finds him trying to put the world to rights. He accompanies himself on piano as he addresses the evils of bigotry, discrimination, etc; his anger being palpable in his voice. The following tracks "Still in the dark", "Mediaevil" (sic) and "A Motor-bike in Afrika" continue the rant against the establishment in a largely similar style. "Mediaevil" has a cod choral arrangement reflecting the religious focus of the song. "A Motor-bike in Afrika" is an odd track though, the rhythm track consisting entirely of an idling motor bike engine, while Hammill chants over it.

"The cut" is a sort of odd man out track, in that the message is obscure, the song's lyrics being based in the recording studio. Unfortunately, as is common throughout the album, Hammill appears to have forgotten to add any sort of melody to the song. The closing "Palinurus (Castaway)" finds Hammill back in self pitying mode, as he observes "one moment prince of the ocean and the next upon the raft". Fortunately, the delivery reverts to his ballad singer mode, making for a pleasing end to the album.

"The future now" is a very intimate album, which finds Hammill not just wearing his heart on his sleeve, but holding it aloft for public examination. It betrays the emotional stresses he was gong through in various aspects of his life. From a musical perspective, while there are some touching ballads, the melodies appear to take second place to the lyrics throughout. It is difficult to recommend the album to anyone other than devoted fans of Hammill.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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