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Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1962 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars An album that came highly recommended by this site, I was anxious to check it out, having been told that it was dark, complex, emotional, and all those other adjectives thrown around by the prog community to describe just about anything they like. When the album arrived in the mail and I first gave it a spin, I found myself absolutely bewildered by the music. It was absolutely unlike anything I'd ever heard before, and I was a little nonplussed, as it was totally different from what I had expected. And yet, when the last track came to a close, I felt emotionally drained, and I knew this was an album that would definately grow on me over time.

Lemmings, the first track, is excellent. Definately off-putting on my first listen, I soon grew to love this cut. Powerful lyrical message and some really compelling instrumental work do it for me. It seems simple on the surface but once you break it down there are a lot of nuances there. It's a bit of a difficult song to comment on, and really has to be heard to be believed. The instrumental at the end where everything kind of just falls apart is awesome, truly creepy atmosphere.

Man-Erg, the second track, is also quite well done and is an example of VDGG's cunning approach to song-writing. Sandwiched between two rather unusual tracks, this one is easily the most accessible of the album and is the cut that kept me coming back for the first couple of relistens. The first bit is almost as though Hammill and co. decided to take a stab at writing a rock-radio ballad. I can't help but think of it as Elton John gone prog. This fades into a frenzied bit which is okay. It's not the best aural depiction of chaos but it gets the message across, anyway. This is followed by my favourite part of any VDGG track. The organ playing, the vocals, the sax solo all evoke some very powerful imagery to my mind. Tears me apart every time I hear it. Then we're back into another pseudo-ballad bit until the ending, which I love and the way it falls apart and seperates is amazing and much better than the previous chaotic bit of the track.

A Plague of Light House Keepers is the biggest let down of the album for me. It begins in a quite compelling fashion, you know, interesting lyrics, powerful atmosphere, emotive vocals, that whole deal, but it slowly starts to fall apart. After a few verses and a couple murky interludes, the song just seems to lose steam, and slowly starts to bog itself down. There are plenty of good ideas and interesting sections, but the whole thing seems to collapse under its own weight. The last few segments I find especially are weak, which is an issue considering how important it is to finish strong. The very last bit could have been cool except I find the vocal harmonies on the all things are a part line awkward, very poorly executed and they just ruin the whole experience for me. All in all this song is a mixed bag, the weakest part of the album and definately not deserving of its high regard as one of the best side-longs ever written. It might grow on me with future listens but I've already listened to it quite a few times already, and one has to wonder when music growing on you stops being the mind learning to grasp a complex song, and starts being the mind getting accustomed to something that just wasn't all that good in the first palce.

Lemmings: 5/5 Man-Erg: 5/5 PLHK: 3/5

KingCrimson250 | 4/5 |


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