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Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts CD (album) cover

PAWN HEARTS

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1441 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The ultimate "who am I?" album!

I realize that everything that can possibly be said about this album already has been said, but y'know what? I'm gunna say it again anyways. This album is a masterpiece that deserves all the praise it can get. Three incredibly strong tracks fill the two sides of this album like some kind of behemoth in a cage just waiting to get off those grooves and into the air. All three tracks are worth of their own paragraphs, and so they'll get them... in time. First, a disclaimer. This is not an album (or band for that matter) that's easy to get into for most people. I bought this album when I saw it sitting in the various V section at a used record store I used to live near and threw it on for the car ride home (which was about a 2 hour drive... that's close! I live in Canada after all!). It was a dark night and the soundscapes that filled my car both confused and terrified me. Because that's the kind of music VdGG makes... it's as though black stormclouds will gather if you listen to them too loudly. Anyways, luckily this was not my first experience with the VdGG, and I gave the album another listen when I got home. I thought, "cool", and then the album sat on the shelf for a couple months. Later, I picked it up again and decided to give it another whirl. Whoa, I was blown away! What amazing music! So, to summarize that pointless little anecdote: Always, always give this band a second chance if you don't them off the first listen.

Onto the songs.

The album starts off with the bizarre LEMMINGS (Including COG). Here's a great, winding sax track that takes the audience on a nice little journey until finally delivering them to the next track via quick drumbeat outro. This is one of the more accessible songs on the album, and starts the album theme of "who am I? What do I do?", that recurring theme that Hammil loves oh so much. Anyways, not the album's best track, but definitely a VdGG classic none the less.

Next up is the supreme MAN-ERG. This is a terribly dark track that starts out rather softly and beautifully, if a bit creepy, thanks to the lyrics ("The killer lives inside me, yes I feel him move. Sometimes he's likely sleeping in the corner of his room. But then his eyes will rise and stare through mine..." ect). Great delivery by Hammil that breathes complete and total life into the track until -- bam, you're bombarded by sax from all sides. "How can I be free!?" screams Hammil as the sonic waves attack you from all sides like some sort of torrent out at open sea. The track continues until we're back at the pretty parts again, some more insanity... and soon the track ends, leaving you wondering what the hell just happened. Amazing.

VdGG's greatest epic, and only side long outing A PLAGUE OF LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS. Most often compared to "Supper's Ready", and for good reason, it's a divided track that doesn't fuse into one continuous song like CTTE or TAAB, regardless, it should be held in as high esteem simply for it's pure, uh, awesomeness! It starts great and low key, and eventually unfolds until it reaches full out choas around the 10 minute mark, then it reaches something beyond conceivable chaos around 16 minutes (the 4th dimension of chaos!). It slows down enough to let you breath right near the end and then, just like it's predecessors, it's over. Each band member plays to their finest, and yet again Hammil does wonders with the vocals. The lyrics are well thought out too, with the theme being that really no one knows who they are, using the lighthouse keeper against the ocean as it's metaphors. And of course the story is much deeper than that, but if I were to go into it the review would become far too long. Anyways, this is a great, if bizarre, track that could not have been pulled off any better than the VdGG boys did, and perhaps it could never be done by anyone other than them to start with. This is VdGG at their very finest, and if you doubt that go listen (or relisten) to this song. Simply stunning.

To conclude -- even if you have a small collection this album should be in it. Be weary, listen with an open mind an give it a few shots, if you don't "get it" right away you will likely later. VdGG's definitive album, this can't be missed! 5 stars!

Queen By-Tor | 5/5 |

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