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Van Der Graaf Generator - Still Life CD (album) cover

STILL LIFE

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.28 | 991 ratings

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Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I seem to be the among the minority of hard-core VDGG fans that consider Still Life to be a real disappointment. I feel that after the majestic comeback that was Godbluff, Still Life was a pretty sharp decline and is really not much better than the average post 1975 Hammill solo album.

Perhaps part of it has to do with the production, for while Godbluff retained the raw sound of the early 70s albums, Still Life is a slicker, clearer album. Maybe the pervading ennui and desperation that had shone through vibrantly in past albums, suddenly became a sullen affair. It's not easy for me to pinpoint exactly why I consider this album to be so inferior to its four predecessors, but I do.

At first glance, the differences between this album and classic VDGG are subtle. The opener Pilgrims for example has all the familiar ingredients but except for the outro sax solo from David Jackson, it seems so lifeless. For the first 3 minutes, the title track is even more so ... a draggy pleading affair that makes me want to switch my player off. Even when Hugh Banton's organ kick-starts the band, this song seems more like a tepid track from Coverdale-era Deep Purple than a true VDGG effort. An impassioned rant from Hammill doesn't save the song.

La Rossa is often cited as a VDGG classic, but it doesn't really hit the spot musically, until around the 4 minute mark, when the song finally undergoes a change of pace. I also quite like the break that kicks off after 6 minutes but I think what sums up the crucial difference between this album and its predecessors for me is that Banton seems to spend far too much time holding chords and Jackson's sax lines lack their usual bite. What we are left with is dense, static prog that it is too much for me to handle.

My Room (Waiting For Wonderland) is definitely my favourite song on the album, and in fact is often the only reason I come back to this one. The lighter feel of Jackson's lines and just about the only memorable melody from Hammill on this album clinch the deal. Nonetheless, I don't rate it among my top 10 VDGG songs.

The concluding piece Childlike Faith In Childhood's End is another boring, generally monolithic piece. Even when the band picks up the pace, and Banton's organ briefly comes to the fore, I rarely hear anything that excites me. Jackson's sax work consistently seems flatulent and "mainstream" compared to what he's done in the past, and even some probing lyrics and violent screaming from Hammill leave me cold.

I've sat through this album 7 or 8 times, and still feel like there's some joke that somebody's playing on me. Don't get me wrong, compared to many other prog bands, this is still a good, albeit non-essential work, it's just that compared to what preceeded it, Still Life is poor. ... 54% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |

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