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Van Der Graaf Generator - Trisector CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.51 | 450 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Sometime after the band finished its comeback/Present tour, Dave Jackson left the group, and from all signs it appeared the split was acrimonious and pretty much irrevocable. I was quite surprised, then, to learn that the remaining members were quite intent on staying together and putting out another album. I suspected they probably wouldn't repeat the mistake of Quiet Zone, completely reinventing the wheel by bringing in a different type of instrumentalist than Jackson, but what I sure didn't expect was that they wouldn't even bother to bring in a woodwind player as a session musician. This is Van Der Graaf Generator reduced to a really bizarre trio, stripped of one of its most distinctive elements, and I was really puzzled by how they'd be able to compensate for the loss.

Honestly, they compensated shockingly well on this album. I had expected that the sound would be uncomfortably empty, but that isn't the case at all. There are very few moments on the album when I feel that some saxophone noodling would be the most logical way to complement the other instruments, and these moments are adequately filled by rather satisfying guitar textures. This is by far the most guitar-heavy Van Der Graaf Generator album, and by the end I start to find myself wondering if, just maybe, relying on Jackson's woodwinds all of those years had been an impediment for the band, not a boost. Banton still relies heavily on his Hammond and on other "traditional" rock keyboards, and Guy Evans bashes about just as strongly as he ever did. This is a loud, noisy album (with some quieter tracks) that sounds like quintessential Van Der Graaf Generator, and that feeling seems less and less miraculous with each listen.

I don't think the songs are all amazing or anything, and the album is longer than I'd prefer from something in this style, but the album is a very intriguing listen, and quite well structured. For one thing, I think that sticking "The Hurlyburly," kind of a futuristic surf instrumental, at the beginning of the album was an incredibly good idea. I think the band knew that any serious fan of the band was going to come into this album with the question in the back of their heads as to whether or not the band could survive with this instrumental combination, and what better way to quash those doubts than with an effective instrumental? It's not complex or profound or anything like that, but it highlights the band's guitar/organ/drum interplay very well, and that's enough to make it work for me.

Another major highlight is "All That Before," which mixes heavy guitar riffs with prominent Hammond riffs in a way that almost reminds me in parts of late 90's Deep Purple, while Peter sings (surprisingly well) decent lyrics about feeling overwhelmed by the technological world around him (I guess). It's a little overlong (like most of the songs on the album), but I don't mind it too much while I'm listening. Among the softer tracks, then, my favorite is probably "Lifetime," if only because of some quiet guitar bits in the middle that are incredibly simple but incredibly moving (the rest of the song is quite nice too). "The Final Reel" threatens to get a bit adult contemporary-ish in the beginning, but it becomes more recognizable as a VDGG track later on, and turns out pretty well.

If there's a clear weak spot on the album, I'd say it's probably the 'epic' 12-minute "Over the Hill." There are certainly some moments that conjure up memories of the better parts of "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End," but there's a lot of the kind of noodling that reminds me why I don't always love VDGG. I suspect that some fans will like it a lot, but it doesn't thrill me a lot.

The other songs are pretty good, but not so much that I can think of anything interesting to say about them, so I'll wrap this up. This isn't one of the most amazing albums I've ever heard, but it is as amazing as I could imagine an album from VDGG at this time and under these circumstances. Plus, it kinda beats the snot out of the non-improv half of Present. Fans should definitely seek this out.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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