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Van Der Graaf Generator - The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.65 | 598 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars This is one of the oddest albums in the bands discography, not because of the musical content, but because it is very different from what has come before. Gone are Hugh Banton and David Jackson (barring a guest appearance), and right there is pretty much the crux of Van der Graaf Generators sounds. No more organ textures, no more sax - it's hard to imagine this as a Van der Graaf Generator record, and to acknowledge that, remaining members Peter Hammill and Guy Evans shortened the name to just Van der Graaf.

Replacing Banton and Jackson, we have Graham Smith on violins and the return Nic Potter (from The Least We Can Do... and He to He...) on bass. This album also features the shortest songs in a long time, with the songs ranging from 2 to 6 minutes (instead of the normal 5 to 20). Furthermore, it is presented as two separate albums - The Quiet Zone is side 1, and The Pleasure Dome is side 2.

All this leads to a unique disc in the bands discography, albeit not a bad one. Each "album" has one great song, one song that doesn't do much for me, and the rest tend to be enjoyable.

My favorite song on The Quiet Zone is Lizard Play, which may be one of the catchiest songs in the bands catalogue. It also gives a good sense of how the violin will support the band; that is to say, on this track it becomes clear that the band is primarily vocal driven on this album (not that they weren't always, to some degree, largely driven by the characteristic vocals of Peter Hammill). However, while the track is catchy and enjoyable, it doesn't quite have the same level of drama as the band is noted for. The rest of this side is more mellow, never bad but in the case of Siren Song, forgettable. These tracks do give Peter a chance to sing with more emotion than in Lizard Play.

In my mind, The Pleasure Dome is the better side, barring the first track (which, for the life of me, I can never recall except when it is playing). Starting with Cat's Eye/Yellow Fever (Running), it is clear that this is the more energetic side of the album. Truthfully I think this is the song where Graham's violin shines the most, giving the song a really frantic, energetic pace. Peter's singing is also the most frenetic on this song.

I want to give Chemical World a special mention as well, because it's dark, moody sound really helps give this album a unique feel, and I wish that the album had ended there. The reprise of the chorus of "Sphinx in the Face" in "The Sphinx Returns" isn't bad, per se, it just leads to you having that chorus stuck in your head for the rest of the day until you finally decide to play this album again - only to have it end the same way. Did the band do this on purpose?

This would be the bands last studio album for nearly 30 years, and while I wouldn't say they went out with a bang, they didn't exactly go out with a whimper either.

TheGazzardian | 3/5 |


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