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Van Der Graaf Generator - The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.65 | 598 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars VdGG without the second G

One thing I've always found interesting about Van Der Graaf Generator's discography was this album. Before I even heard the record it was appealing to me for a couple reasons. It's the black sheep - it's not seen as anywhere near their best albums and it's considered very strange and... It's not even by Van Der Graaf Generator [VdGG] per se. This is an album by Van Der Graaf [VdG], as Peter Hammil decided to shorten the name since it did not feature the entire normal lineup (even if David Jackson would make guest appearances). While it's very much considered a full-fledged VdGG album it's very clear that they were trying to do something different here.

First and foremost the album is split in two. The two sides named respectively The Quite Zone and The Pleasure Dome are two very different entities - one focused on the lo-key and reflective, the other focused on a kind of inner madness that propels the songs. It's also good to note that while Jackson still makes appearances they're far and few compared to VdGG's normal work. Brought much to the foreground of this album is the string sections and the percussions, likely to cover up for the lesser amount of Sax. This makes for a very different sounding album from the band - and it's a nice change. This one sounds very clean and proper as opposed to their normal madness. The madness is still there, of course, but it's smoothed over. Guitars also have a spot on here, but they're very much in the back ground - not a lead instrument at all as we can expect from the band. The compositions are also shorter here. All of them ranging between 4 and 6 minutes, but that's okay because they're all very solid tunes. In terms of style this one follows close to their previous offering World Record but in a much improved from since this time around they don't sound like a bunch of tired lackluster players but instead a band who wants to keep it lo-key for a while.

As mentioned before, the two sides are very different. The Quiet Zone features the more laid back songs, opening with the catchy Lizard Play with it's infectious rhythm section. This is likely the biggest standout on the first side - it's laid back pacing and sharp delivery makes for a very interesting contrast with the strings which are quite piercing. Other songs such as the melancholic The Habit Of The Broken Heart follow suite with the slow approach which works quite well - the bass becoming the driving force of the song. The Siren Song is a pretty and delicate song that starts to get heavy around the middle while Last Frame shows a bit more of that biting evil side of Hammil that we're used to.

Moving onto the second side is where the album gets really good. But first - take everything you know about the band and throw it out the window. The band that used to make black clouds gather overhead when they played is still here - but they've started to pick up the pace. Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running) is a true blue VdGG masterpiece compressed into a five and a half minute song. Frantic strings make for a very fast song that will very likely catch you off guard the first time around. It's also strange because this is almost a dancable song without becoming unlikeable. Almost a punk song turned prog this is one that has a lot of force and aggression behind it - very cool indeed. The Sphinx In The Face is another tune very much quick and unlike VdGG - catchy and almost pure rock but without the guitar. Chemical World is another very cool song - this one more to the madness of Hammil that we're used to once again, his voice effects making for a very chilling tune.

All in all a very excellent and somewhat overlooked album. Nothing like the band in their classic era but a very worthy addition to any collection be you a fan of the band or not. Quite surprisingly accessible considering the band, in fact. A huge improvement over their previous record and unfortunately their last for a couple of decades. 4 cat's eyes out of 5! Excellent.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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