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Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.46 | 2351 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars After splitting up for a few years, Hammill put out some solo albums. These are quite good and show the huge difference between Hammill solo and VDGG. It illustrates, essentially, that VDGG is NOT just Hammill. They got back together and started their second phase. This phase is much smoother, with easier to listen to music and lyrics that are much more personal than the metaphorical mystical stuff Hammill was spewing before. However, it can't be termed a sell out: who in the world would sell out with an album like Godbluff? Four songs on the albums with themes of betrayal, sleep walking (!) and even (typically) death. It's also on par with H to the He and matches it in quality in different ways.

A quiet flute part starts Undercover Man. Long time listeners will note the difference in the album right away: Peter whispers quietly and the band plays more smoothly. The changes in the song seem more organic and less violent. They still get loud but it all builds gradually into multiple climaxes. Peter's screams are more in control: the dissonance is almost gone. There are no special effects. The band seems to playing right in your living room. The lyrics are personal and very expressive. The melodies stick in the mind. Hardcore fans might still accuse the bands of selling out but this is simply well done composer craft. Good melodies should stick with the listener and they do on this track.

My personal favorite track, Scorched Earth comes next. The build up in this song is incredible: the way the organ, saxes, drums and bass interact in the introduction builds an incredible tension that only relieves at the end of the song. The song isn't even incredibly complex, the way the older stuff was: much of Hugh's organ work tends to be of the "drone" type but it really works here. Hammill has a virtual fit.

Arrow was a difficult track for me to get into and its still my least favorite on the album. However, it starts out very intriguingly: very free, very uncontrolled but in a different way than the past VDGG. It has a bit of a jazz feel to it, but it's just a feel: no real jazz fan would be impressed here. However, it's pretty good for a rock band. Eventually, the song settles into a strange groove, fairly dissonant with Hammill screaming "ARROW!!!" in an incredibly harsh (even for him) manner that never fails to impress me. The song really works but it misses out on the incredible riffs and melodies of the rest of the album.

Did I mention the riffs? Hammill has never been a riff master: I can count the masterpiece riffs of his on one hand: for example, I adore H to the He and it has really only Killer as a masterpiece and Pioneers of C as being great. Naturally, not all music can be measured by riffs but it definitely helps. However, I'd say this album has one of Peter's all time best riffs: Sleepwalker. That introduction, with that incredible riff dancing around the drums, bass, organ and sax as Peter sings an unforgettable set of lyrics to an incredible vocal melody: that sticks with me. The fact that the song mostly rides that riff to the end doesn't change how incredible it is. The song does take some strange detours into nearly comical music, showcasing a lighter side of the band rarely shown. It ends what I consider to be their most listenable yet still captivating album.

What makes this album so great is that it creates a quiet, contemplative mood while still maintaining the attack of VDGG. This isn't a compromised album: the band simply edits out the noise, focuses on the music and lets it go. There are few if any sound effects here, the arrangements remain clear and uncluttered and the band plays with a confidence and agility never seen in their wilder but more "clunky" early days. Quite a great start for the "new" VDGG and one they never really beat.

SonicDeath10 | 5/5 |


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