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


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1956 ratings

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Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars Ah. Van Der Graaf Generator. The ultimate hit-and-miss band for me. Generally a bit more adventurous, especially so on Pawn Hearts, where they gladly attack you with a brash, provocative style of crashing and collapsing waves of atonal and screeching musical neurosis in some way or another. Side by side with this you can expect weirdly non-directional wanderings into a land of noisy, or for that matter, minimal keyboard and percussion obscurity. And as an added bonus, a minute or two with a staunchly, strange but often basic melody, packing as much punch as heavy prog, or even better, a wondrously contrasting nimble interlude.

Evidently, the records strength is found in the contrast...the conflict...the gut-wrenching drama and intensity of these dramatic effects. All of this with no respect for what style and which instrumentation (much of its identity is found in David Jackson's impressive saxophone playing) to use when and how, yet still retaining the focus to apply it properly.

Despite this confusing, sometimes even alarming, schizophrenia there is a profound statement to be found. Because somewhere in this strange brew you find the heart and soul of the music in the complex inner workings of thought and emotion expressed better nowhere else; fragility tumbling around with confusion, anger toppled with deep, inconsolable sadness, hope tarnished by uncertainty. Unfortunately, I don't acknowledge this as a direct strength for the band in most cases, and especially not on Pawn Hearts, where it is at its most abundant and most glaringly obvious. VdGG, simply put, has a balance problem for me. As I once read, and agree with, they sort of collapse into their own intense emotion. I feel like Hammill (being a unique and massive emotional force) is ramming these thoughts and feelings down my throat, leaving no room for reflection and a personal emotional interpretation and experience.

So in conclusion you have got to admire the mind-boggling ambition on Pawn Hearts, but it just does not hold together well. There are too many sections without clear purpose, while lacking the capability to keep my interest level high to make up for it. The omnipresent meta-emotionality quickly degrades into a caricature of itself since it is, put simply, nauseatingly abundant. The feeling of strengths turned to weaknesses permeates the listening experience. That is not to say that there are no grand, well-executed parts to be found here, but they tend to be a little too few and a little too overshadowed by the wallowing qualities of the music.

Some of the best as well as some of the worst material of Van Der Graaf Generator is found on Pawn Hearts, and the appreciation of the album shifts in focus between the two depending on what mood you are in when listening to it.

So on average...a fair album.

3 stars.


LinusW | 3/5 |


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