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

PAWN HEARTS

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1438 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

burtonrulez
5 stars This an AMAZING album! When I first listened to it a couple of weeks ago I enjoyed it, but was not overwhelmed by it, but now I am. Peter Hamill's voice is magnificent, and was surely an influence on Marillion's Fish. His lyrics are brilliant as well. The unusual instrumentation works amazingly. This is one of the darkest prog albums I own, both musically and lyrically.

'Lemmings' is the 11 minute opener. It is my least favourite track on the album, but still a scorcher. When Hamill first enters his voice is very high pitched, and almost woman-like. The lyrics are quite depressing, but the end offers some hope. I am not sure but it seems to be a commentary on the worthlessness of life, saying the only thing to do is look forward to is death, although at the end it is decided that life is worth living in order to try and make the world a better place for our descendants. The section entitled 'Cog' is especially poignant, with Hamill almost screaming, this is some of the heaviest guitarless music I have ever heard! When the flute comes in towards the end it is very beautiful. 'Man-Erg' is next, and possibly my favourite. The subject matter is again dark, with Peter questioning the duality of human nature. He is struggling with issues of identity, as he has the capacity for great evil and great good. Again the ending is more upbeat, with him deciding that he is just himself, a man, and although he's not perfect, he is not a great evil-doer. The first too verses would fool you into thinking this was a soft ballad, until things pick up speed with a heavier middle section. Jackson's saxophone is awesome here. It ends in a grand and pompous manner, sounding almost like a hymn. Brilliant and poignant. 'A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers' is the opener and a brilliant example of a side long epic. I prefer this to 'Close to the Edge', '2112', 'Nine Feet Underground' et al. In fact the only side long track I prefer would probably be Pink Floyd's 'Echoes'. Anyway back on track. The lyrics here offer tons of imagery and metaphors. I have not had time to fully interpret them, but it shows a very good mastery of the English language on Peter's part. The amount packed into these 23 minutes is phenomonal, yet it does not feel crammed, only dense. A lot goes on. we have beautifully soft vocal sections, tortured screaming, barely audible passages and more. It is a stunning song which every prog fan needs to here.

The bonus tracks will not affect the rating of the album. They are a mixed bunch. 'Theme One' is a not- very-exciting instrumental which doesn't do much for me. 'W' is a mediocre song. The last three are solo tracks by the band's instrumentalists. They all offer something interesting, especially the Coltrainesque jazz of Jackson's 'Ponker's Theme'.

This album might not be for everyone. Hamill's voice may be too much for some, and others may be put off buy the unconventional instrumentation. If you love good prog, though, you should hear this at least once, and you shall probably cherish it for a long time to come. Five Stars, undoubtedly.

burtonrulez | 5/5 |

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