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Van Der Graaf Generator - World Record CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.82 | 752 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars We sometimes forget that there are people out there (and even in our forums!) that haven't devoured the back catalogue of Van der Graaf Generator, so here's a review aimed at newcomers to the band.

World Record, at fifty-three minutes of slightly overstuffed LP, isn't a good example of strong song-writing and is more of a jam album, putting the spotlight on Banton's majestic church organs and Jaxon's octaving sax-play - both shine in an unegotistical manner, playing in ways you barely thought were possible on a rock record but never battling for attention. At the least, you'll appreciate their musicianship, but just as likely, you'll understand why Van der Graaf Generator work; they operate on trust and ensemble play, each musician struggling to provide as solid a base as possible so that the songs don't fall apart for lack of rock instrumentation. This orchestral mood is further developed when Robert Fripp, the Crimson King himself, adds a lengthy guitar solo to Meurglys III (in itself a song about Hammill's guitar, superficially or otherwise...) yet plays it at a volume slightly below the other band-mates so as not to swamp the song.

The Banton/Jaxon/Evans framework opens up a lot of songwriting space, so despite being played on what you could imagine as a rather limited set of instruments, and even though each song drives on at a similar low-to-mid-tempo pace, they all have their own identity, ranging from ballads to reggae-tinged jamathons to Wondering which is unique in the band's repertoire as a sort of alternative English anthem, very solemn and self-effacing in its remarkable refrain.

Although each track is verbose, Hammill seems in a contrary and harsh mood, delivering most of his lines in a uniquely over-enunciating crow-like rasp, exuberantly spilling over into refined punky-goth territory, not even usually deigning to provide a sane melody unless it's a key moment (the chorus of When She Comes retains a little tunefulness, while Masks and Wondering are softer songs that call for the band's restraint and co-operation) at which times he sounds prideful, often zooming up into the upper registers in a glorious and unabashed falsetto. He has an astonishing range together with great composure, but the places he likes to sing most are in between the notes we love.

Hammill's voice may just be the key to enjoying the band's work, or at least its majority - try their reformation double album Present if you want to hear more of their jamming and less of his singing. Still, you'll be missing out on his lyrics, one of the major attractions to VdGG's music. Each song is a poetic excursion into some area of murky human philosophical quandary, whether it be fate, love, loss or isolation and Hammill always seems to find a new angle or lexicon to express them and so never becomes all that repetitive.

While we have a good album here, it isn't considered by many to be the band's finest moment, so if your first impressions of World Record are favourable, you might consider looking into their H to He album if you'd like to hear them rock more, Godbluff if you want them at their wordiest, or Pawn Hearts if you're itching to hear a seminal and ludicrous prog-rock explosion.

laplace | 3/5 |


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