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Van Der Graaf Generator - Trisector CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.51 | 453 ratings

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4 stars The last time D. Jackson left the band in early 1977 was almost simultaneosly with H. Banton, forcing P. Hammill and G. Evans to reinvent the group, adding new musicians and coming up with a sound quite different from all previous VdGG incarnations. This time, however, following the Present Tour of 2007, Banton remained in the band so they continued as a trio. And quite unusual trio at that, consisting of drums, organ and piano (with occassional guitar). Although Banton's organ was always a "trademark" of the VdGG sound, Jackson's reeds were equally important, so the question many fans (including myself) asked was how this new trio configuration would cope with this deficiency. The first time I heard "Trisector" I did not like it. I badly missed Jackson's mad saxophones and gentle flutes, while somewhat modernized sound did not draw my particular attention. So, I shelved this CD for many years.

Recently I decided to revisit some old VdGG albums and especially those I have not reviewed so far. For this purpose I listened again to this album three times in a row (a pun not intended) to see what I might have missed earlier. Quite a lot, I can say now!

As if to prove their coherence following the loss of a key member and to address the problem signified by the album title, all songs but one are credited to the whole trio. First, there is an odd couple of songs that invoke "punkish" attitude in using heavy and dirty riffs of electric guitar and standard rock beat. The opener instrumental "Hurlyburly" is kind of passable track with its guitar tremoloes, sounding like the Stranglers of the mid-1980s attempting to play early 1960s surf. Would probably fit better somewhere else on the album and not as the opening one. "Drop Dead" is much better and is perhaps the first VdGG pop song so far, the one to which you could easily dance to and singalong, thanks to its hard down to earth 4/4 beat. With punklike angst Hammill, who is no stranger to this kind of style, yells "drop dead" while elaborating on the retreat of masculinity and its obsolecence in face of the coming feminine power.

Then, there is a killer duo of songs that are in a way connected with the album title and artwork and that tackle another band's favourite topic - science. Both "Interference Patterns" and "(We Are) Not Here" contain some typical VdGG musical madness of complex and loud interplay between organ, piano and guitar, and these are probably the moments when absence of Jackson's saxes is felt most strongly. From "wantonly quantum" musings about the nature of reality that is illusory and made of particles and waves to the disturbing thought that we as beings are not really here, these two songs epitomize the "progressiveness" of this band to tackle unusual, disturbing and difficult topics. Still, "Interference Patterns" is somehow deluded by the preceding surf-like instrumental and would better sound as a strong opener, but retaining the introductory machinery noise that also conclude the album after the final track.

On the more slow tempo front there is excellent "The Final Reel" with irresistable melody and beautiful organ providing dark mood for the story about a doomed couple "facing their decline". Then follows a slightly less convincing but nonetheless fine tune "Lifetime" (the one penned by Hammill only) whose more personal and emotional lyrics are nicely backed with yet another tremolo-like effect on electric guitar.

Excellent quality of compositions continue with "Only In A Whisper", a jazzy number featuring only drums, piano and bass guitar (played by Banton). Yet, I don't like Hammill's vocals when he seems to struggle with getting some higher notes. "All That Before" returns with more dynamical and aggressive sound telling, in a slightly humoristic way, about an elderly man suffering from memory loss in everyday living while surrounded with modern mobile communication technology.

And finally, the epic-long 12 minute "Over the Hill" does not impress me much. It is too long and boring at times. As if trying to reconnect with their past, this track contains elements that sound similarly to some parts of "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" or "Pawn Hearts", but I could easily skip it because it brings nothing new to the album. No, it is not bad song by any means, it just isn't my cup of tea in this context.

So, in retrospect this was surprisingly good album given that it was the first one recorded by the trio line-up. And that trio was to continue performing and recording more wonderful and enjoyable music on the albums to come.

Seyo | 4/5 |


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