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Van Der Graaf Generator - The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.05 | 938 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Let the black clouds gather.

Though not always called their first album thanks to record labels slapping the band's name on what was supposed to be Peter Hammil's debut, The Aerosol Grey Machine, this really is the start of the prog behemoth, Van Der Graaf Generator [VdGG]. What we have here is one amazing first step for any band, and if this had been their sole output many of us would have been deeply satisfied (good thing they went on to make several albums on par or above this gem). I'll never forget the first experience I had with this band, reading about them in a special edition magazine all about prog back when my progressive scope was limited to Rush and a taste of Pink Floyd. The magazine said that whenever these guys played, it seemed like black clouds would gather overhead, that they were one of the darkest and most malevolent sounding bands to come out of the progressive golden era. And I agree heartily.

For those still unfamiliar with this group, VdGG is a very interesting group to first lay ear upon. No (lead) guitar, we instead have a lead saxophone and organs accompanied with madman vocalist Peter Hammil with his emotional, evil and British voice box at the front. While not a group that revolves around its front man entirely, VdGG do rely on Peter heavily for the moods in some of the songs, because as beautifully or as darkly as the band can play it's only accentuated by his voice. Take for example the heart crushing Refugees, a slow and serene song made into the song it is by Hammil's delicate delivery of the vocals. This is the kind of song that can bring tears to your eyes if you're not careful, as Hammil's voice and lyrics paint a very beautiful picture.

But while that may be a very pretty song on the album, the rest balance it out for the evil factor in a heartbeat. White Hammer is one of the songs often brought up for doing this, and for a reason. The song opens with some brooding organs before letting in Hammil's voice, gradually gaining volume until the saxes add to the mix until we get to the last two minutes of the song and the world simply begins to end, the entire instrumental section going into chaos in a kind of black cloud that eventually lets the song engulf itself (and the listener) in complete darkness. No prog fan should live their life without having said they've heard this song - truly brilliant.

Other songs on the album have different effects, although never really losing that dark factor. Whatever Would Robert Have Said is a bit more upbeat with its vocals and rhythm section, although it still has that cataclysmic chaos to it at certain points. Out Of My Book is another slower tune that's not quite as tear jerking as Refugees, but still very pretty and somewhat delicate with the pleasant flute section and acoustic guitar. The opener, Darkness (11/11) shows the audience what they're in for with a subtle intro of dark sounds, piano and drums with quiet vocals exploding into the chorus with Hammil and the sax at full blast at last. Some whispered voices make for another scary experience as Hammil continues his vocal rampage, Jackson close on his tail with the sax. This is a song that exemplifies what the band does very well, and based on this one song you can really see where the rest of the band's material over the years will come from.

However, the biggest standout on the album is likely the closer, the 11-minute After The Flood. This is a song whose style would be used a lot more on the band's next album, H To He Who Am The Only One, with it's heavy use of organ, and really would have fit well on that album as well. It's really the organ that takes the lead on this one even if the acoustic guitar and saxes fly around in the background. VdGG still lets loose with the chaotic sections such as Hammil's delivery of ''The ice is turning to water....''. Then, coming into the middle section we get barraged by a furious Jackson on the sax as the instruments all go to hell once more. Frantic and powerful drumming in there as well as the organ takes the lead with it's malicious riff. The volume picks up once more as Hammil and the boys take us onto the end.

This is a marvelous work by the VdGG crew that deserves full praise. Perhaps not for the weak-hearted, but what prog is? With enough malice and darkness to go around the table quite a few times this makes for an excellent listen and an excellent addition to any prog collection. 4 whit hammers out of 5. Evil, dark, and oh so good.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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