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

PAWN HEARTS

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1466 ratings

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DisgruntledPorcupine
4 stars A unique album

This is Van der Graaf Generator's 4th album, and what many call their best. I'll have to disagree with those who say that, but this is still a wonderful album. Like the legendary Close To The Edge, this has 3 songs. Here you'll find two songs around 10 minutes, and one 23 minute song.

A description of the music: This is a very unique release with traces of psychedelia and some jazzy saxophone bits. "Lemmings" begins with a happy sounding acoustic guitar riff, and goes through angry moods, and has some brilliantly emotional vocal work from Peter Hammill. The majority of this song is keyboard and saxophone driven and it contains a chorus sang in a rather odd way, but is quite memorable. "Man-Erg" begins like a beautiful piano ballad, but like in "Lemmings," we are mislead and we quickly go through many mood changes. Some parts of this song are chaotic and very dissonant, but it is intended as a moodsetter for insanity, so it works well. Brilliant saxophone sections are also present in this track.

And then the third song. The 23-minute epic, "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers." It is split into 10 different sections. It begins with "Eyewitness," which starts out slow and spacey with calm vocals from Hammill. The organ then comes in as Hammill gets louder, and the mood rises until the section ends. "Pictures/Lighthouse" is more of an ambient and psychedelic section with the sounds of trains, water, and saxophones imitating foghorns. "Eyewitness" then returns for a very short time. "S.H.M." is a loud section with Hammill sounding like a maniac. "Presence of the Night" is an absolutely gorgeous section with quiet saxophone solos and a spacey mellotron riff. "Kosmos Tours" is utter chaos. It starts out sort of quiet until Hammill begins to shout. A keyboard riff is then repeated until the song slowly changes into completely disorganized mayhem. Once again, it sets the mood, so it works well with the song. "(Custard's) Last Stand" is another beautiful ballad section. Hammill sings just beautifully here. "The Clot Thickens" begins when the previous section suddenly explodes into complete noise and Hammill screaming for his life. This section never quiets down and keeps up a constant assault on your ears. "Land's End" this section is just piano and vocals. It is absolutely beautiful and works great with "We Go Now," a great concluding guitar solo, and ends the song happier and beautifully.

PROS:

Songwriting: Hammill's songwriting here is nothing short of flawless. The lyrics to "A Plague Of Lighthouse" keepers are some of the best I've seen.

Uniqueness: There aren't many bands that have such chaotic sections as "The Clot Thickens" and 2:59 of "Man-Erg." The utter musical chaos in these sections rival some death metal bands.

Vocals: Hammill is a master at singing with great drive and emotion. He can sing, scream, shriek, and do pretty much anything else under the sun to make sure you completely feel the music.

CONS:

The chaos: Not everyone is going to like screaming, saxophone blaring, heavy drum banging, and chaotic keyboards all assaulting their ears at once. Not even I like it sometimes. Also, in "The Clot Thickens," it can be just plain annoying and almost non- musical.

Diversity: While this band showed their uniqueness from others here, they tend to sound a little more bland here then they do on other releases such as "Godbluff" and "Still Life." For instance, bits of "Lemmings" and "Man-Erg" sound pretty similar.

Song ratings: Lemmings: 8.5/10 Man-Erg: 8/10 A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers: 10/10

Recommended for: People looking for an odd sound in their prog. People who don't mind sudden explosions.

My rating. 4 stars. All the songs are great and "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" is probably the best song they've released, but the album as a whole lacks the diversity, and some of the utter beauty you will find in their next two releases. Another note: For those looking to get into the band, this is DEFINITELY not the place to start.

DisgruntledPorcupine | 4/5 |

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