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Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff CD (album) cover

GODBLUFF

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.50 | 1319 ratings

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Evans
5 stars For me, Van der Graaf Generator is one of those bands which define what progressive music is all about, along with King Crimson. Their sound is totally unique in a way that not many of the classic bands can boast.

First of all, there's not much guitar in their music. Second, Dave Jackson's flute and saxes add an element of fluidity which work very well in contrast to the sometimes blocky sound of Hugh Banton's almost omnipresent organ. On top of it all, we have Peter Hammill, one of the most unique vocalists in all of prog, and certainly one of the best as well. Singers like Fish from Marillion may sound very much like Peter Gabriel in his tone, but my guess is that it is Hammill's style they all try to emulate.

But most importantly, Van der Graaf Generator is emotional music personified.

When it comes to Godbluff, the two albums i find it at all reasonable to compare with are "Pawn Hearts", which came before, and "Still Life" which is very closely linked to it in both style and time of recording.

If you liked "Pawn Hearts", you should know that a lot of the experimentation and slightly noisy avant-garde tendencies are gone with the wind. Godbluff is more melodic and word-driven than it's predecessor. More easy on the ears, if you will. Not to say it's entirely accessible, there is still no doubt that it is a progressive rock band that we are hearing.

If you have already heard Still Life, you can pretty much expect the same thing with a few minor differences. For example, it is my perception that Still Life is slightly more driven by Hugh Banton and his keyboards while Godbluff is where Jaxon gets the most time in the limelight, his solos on Arrow are especially great.

As a general rule, i tend to think that the music on Godbluff is slightly superior, while Still Life has much more to offer lyrically. Out of the four songs, "Sleepwalkers" and "Undercover man" are the only ones i can truly say i can entirely understand and that say anything at all.

My least favourite track is "Scorched Earth", and that has a lot to do with the fact that the lyrics mean absolutely nothing to me. I don't know if they are supposed to be very deep, perhaps an allegory of some sorts, but in any case, i have pretty much given up on it and just take it at face value. Best on the album is "Arrow". It might not be the most well-composed song ever, but it takes the price by sheer power. It starts jazzy and then switches style completely to something much darker. The lyrics, about war and "fickle promises of treaty", aren't as good as the ones on Still Life or even Pawn Hearts, but they suffice for what is the main virtue of the song, the vocals. Peter Hammill is a powerful vocalist, and "Arrow" is the song on which he really gives it his all. The climax is simply one of the most draining pieces of music i have ever heard, and the way he delivers the line "How long the night is, why is this passage so narrow?" always makes me wonder if he's going to explode through the sheer power of his own voice. Ranks just under Fleetwood Mac's "Silver Spring" as the most emotional vocal delivery i in my world.

The closer, "Sleepwalkers" bears some resemplance to "Childlike faith in childhood's end" in that it has the more existential lyrics which characterised "Still Life", and it also contains a strange instrumental passage which may seem out of place on the first few listens. Before, i used to want a more climactic ending to the song, rather than it just trailing off with some sounds, but after thinking about it have come to think that it might be just as well. Since the track before it "Arrow" has such a very powerful ending, maybe it is apropriate to give us this chance to wind down, otherwise they might need to put a "not for the faint hearted"-sticker on the sleeve.

No, i am not entirely sure about the rating. I am very seldom completely sure that it is a masterpiece i am listening to, because i know that tastes do change. Often and much. However, despite me liking Still Life quite a bit more, there is no way i would not recomend Godbluff to every person interested in prog music. Only gripe i have is the rather boring sleeve. I mean, the question is, how much more black can it get? And the aswer is none. None more black. No, really, a black album sleeve may seem like a cool thing sometimes, and even if you can indeed see your face in it, it takes away a certain identity from an album which may sometimes be needed for that certain extra little "Thing". Just imagine Harmonium's second album without that classiic colorful painting, it just wouldn't be the same.

Spinal Tap references aside, get this album. Don't hesitate, just make sure you get Still Life before.

Evans | 5/5 |

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