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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 | 940 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other, Van Der Graaf Generator, 1970


The Least We Can Do... comes a little before the thoroughly incredible H To He, Who Am The Only One, and is a good and fairly interesting album. However, though Van Der Graaf Generator would probably be my joint favourite band, I can't say that this compares very favourably with the following four masterpieces they were to release. Hammill's vocals are consistent and excellent, but certainly don't have the experimental and quirky edge which instantly drew me into the group's work. Equally, the instrumental and lyrical content is all quite strong with a number of high points, but still overall feels a bit vulnerable in comparison with the following albums.

I'd say that the two soft songs, Refugees and Out Of My Book, are a bit more successful than the aggressive and grandiose choices, and the album as a whole is fairly consistently solid, but the soul-tearing moments of instrumental fury are missing in a few places. Lastly, I actually dislike White Hammer's vocal section. Essentially a good album, with its own individual feel and merits, but more of an album for the band's fans than one I'd consider a general milestone of progressive rock.

The bleak Darkness 11/11, the lyrical opposite of Rush's Freewill (brilliantly phrased, denying the possession of Freewill and from a first person viewpoint) opens the album with incredible force, wind sound effects; neat basslines and piano pervade the piece. Jaxon's superb twinning of the electric sax and acoustic sax, comes to the forefront in the instrumental sections, and Banton and Evans, though not often coming to the forefront, are extremely effective when they do.

The gorgeous Refugees is an incredibly human and connective song about, essentially, leaving a way of life behind. Lush cellos and flute hold up the piece's substance, while Hammill's extremely high and clear vocals convey the remorseful lyrics ('we're refugees, walking away from the life we've known and loved/nothing to do nor say, nowhere to stay, now we are alone'). Throughout the piece, the vocals are changing, moving to a lower range, and being supplemented by substantial backing harmonies, and with them moves the music, incorporating superb percussion and piano (this time from Hammill). A truly beautiful song, with a lovely organ/flute ending.

White Hammer is the only Van Der Graaf Generator song I've so far heard that I actually dislike. Not only are the lyrics a bit of a mess, and lacking in impact, but the delivery is equally a little flat. Admittedly, a range of vocals are used, from grandiose to aggressive to a more intimate tone, but the final lyrical line, 'The white hammer of lo-ove' simply falls flat. There are positives to be had in the musical content, Hugh Banton's organ rocks appropriately, if a tad repetitively, in between its more reflective tones, while Nic Potter's bass is enjoyably mobile and energetic. The rather light cornet from Gerry Salisbury works quite well in providing a dated feel.

However, the real merit of the piece is the very, very strong instrumental conclusion that follows the rather weak vocal section. The organ takes on a bone-shattering force of its own, as do the saxophone wails. This gritty terror evoked by Jaxon and Banton and potent elephantine percussion lead the song to its conclusion.

Whatever Would Robert Have Said is probably my favourite of the album's darker and heavier pieces, with gritty guitar from Nic Potter complimenting Hammill's frantic vocals, the underpinning acoustics, and organ throbs, as well as a superb set of lyrics ('I am the peace you're searching for, but you know you'll never find/ I am the pain you can't endure, but which tingles in your mind'). All the performances are top notch, with David Jackson's soft sax complimenting the Frippish guitar wails suprisingly well. Mysterious, atmospheric and chaotic.

Out Of My Book is the album's second soft piece, with a rather more acoustic focus, and odd flutes and complimentary organs backing up the vocal changes. Guy Evans percussion is highly impressive here, adding in a few touches without intruding greatly, and Nic Potter's bass again is strong, adding an almost-plucked counterpart to the acoustics. The lyrics and vocals are sublime, and the piece overall is a complete success.

After The Flood is an awkward piece to review. Long and certainly grandiose, with a fierce set of sax riffs and organ additions, and enough neat additions from acoustics and all sorts of bizarre sounds to hold up the instrumental side (which includes a rather amusing Mission-Impossible-reminiscent-section). It is unfortunate that the highly repeated 'The water rushes over all...' and 'and when the water falls again...' are nothing more than grandiose. The delivery just isn't personal enough for my liking. Still, Evans is on top form, and there's plenty to enjoy, especially the 'And then he said: (Einstein quote here)' section. It just doesn't quite satisfy me constantly, which is a bit of a shame as an ending piece.

The two bonus pieces, a neat aggressive acoustic-led piece called Boat Of Millions Of Years, and a single cut of Refugees (substantially different from the album version, so still a worthy conclusion), are both strong and interesting. The former is strong on all counts, and fits in with the album's feel.

So, if, like me, you're a fan of Van Der Graaf Generator, this should definitely follow the four big albums plus the slightly (in my opinion) under-rated World Record, and should have more than enough good material to keep you satisfied, even if it's no match for Van Der Graaf Generator's string of masterpieces. If not, the soft pieces do need to be heard, but I can't imagine the album as a whole doing a lot for you. Characteristically dark, frenetic, multi-faceted and solid. Three stars.

Rating: Three Stars Favourite Track: Refugees

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |


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