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

PAWN HEARTS

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1415 ratings

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Flucktrot
Prog Reviewer
3 stars One of the most unique and bizarre albums I have ever heard.

For 1971, this is extremely ambitious and creative stuff. Some of it is powerful, and some of it is nearly unlistenable. I suppose that's part of the charm. I simply see it as a landmark album that, although flawed, is probably essential just for the unique experience.

Lemmings. Right away, VDGG grabs your attention, with soft guitar and flute swirling into the bombastic dissonant organ and Hammill screeches. The rest is a bizarre (and quite enjoyable) free-for-all of blaring organ, heavy sax, and frantic percussion. The only downside is the three minutes of die-down at the end.

Man-Erg. VDGG keeps up the quality with the alternatingly poignant and chaotic offering that is Man-Erg. I especially enjoy the subdued, oozing sax section toward the end, which is interrupted by the brief poignant refrain, and concluded with an absolutely huge, ELP-style conclusion of unison clanging.

A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers. As a progger who has a special love for epics, I really am surprised about how little this one has grabbed me over the years. Of course we have Hammill's excellent lyrics, an enticingly eerie extended introduction, and a grand finale, but the middle-to-late section before the finale is simply irritating to my ears. It is literally a struggle to keep from fast-forwarding. This provides extra incentive for me not to go crazy: if that's how it will sound in my head non-stop, I'll do anything to avoid it. Obviously that is the intended effect, given the song's subject matter, and reasonable people may feel that this is just another aspect of Pawn Hearts' brilliance.

Lemmings and Man-Erg are high quality, but the epic brings things down a bit in my book--of course, opposite to the beliefs of most reviewers. Even with a bump for historical purposes and pure creative effort, Pawn Hearts falls well short of masterpiece status.

Flucktrot | 3/5 |

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