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Van Der Graaf Generator - The Aerosol Grey Machine CD (album) cover

THE AEROSOL GREY MACHINE

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

3.28 | 622 ratings

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JackFloyd
3 stars I know the general opinion of prog lovers about this record, but regardless of it, I quite like it.

Sure, this sounds like nothing Van der Graaf Generator would do in the future, being more in the vein of Syd Barrett psychedelia, but it's a very good record at that. The only real problem about The Aerosol Grey Machine is it's sameness, the songs, save perhaps Necromancer, Afterwards and Octopus, all have similar arrangements and not enough quirks to make them more different, which eventually leads to some monotony.

But of course, this record was originally meant as a Peter Hammill solo album, and it was only released as a VdGG one to free the band from the cold hands of Mercury Records so they could shift to Charisma, which virtually makes The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other their debut. That said, it sounds more like Fool's Mate than anything else with it's mix of pop/prog, just a bit weirder and less edgy or charming.

This is, from all points of view, a transitional time for the band: apart from the record company change, Hugh Banton became a member after the exit of mysterious organist Nick Pearne, Guy Evans entered the band to double on the drums with Chris Judge Smith who, in turn, left feeling superfluous, also, Peter Hammill has not fully developed his voice and songwritting just yet and road-veteran friend Keith Ellis briefly joined to help on bass. Talking about Keith Ellis, his bass sound is simply monster, to the likes of The Who's John Entwistle but more subdued, laying the groove like not a lot of bass-players would dare by that time. He would eventually die in 1978, and ike Peter Hammill once said: "he was not made for old age", but he is the real star of The Aerosol Grey Machine for me.

"Afterwards" is a lovely ballad featuring wah-wah electric organ, possibly Farfisa; "Orthenian Street" drags for too long even if the instrumental grand finales are beautiful; the sombre "Running Back" has a nice flute workout courtesy of some Jeff Peach; "Into A Game" is too weird and convoluted but the psychedelic coda is worth the listen; "The Aerosol Grey Machine" is a throwaway mock advertising; somehow, "Black Smoke Yen" sounds like a song of it's own instead of it's position as a prelude for "Aquarian" and I wouldn't care if it lasted longer; "Aquarian" itself has a nice tune but the lyrics, the lyrics are simple hippie-flower-power celebrations, are awful; "Octopus" is more like it, Van der Graaf Generator from head to toe and a prelude of things to come, if you will; "Necromancer"'s rhythm is, in my opinion, stolen from Holst's "Mars", but it works, and the lyrics are decent except for the white magic part, which is ridicule (tell me, where on Earth does a Necromancer use white magic?).

This can't be comparated with VdGG 1970-onwards because it was never meant to be so, in this context, it's very good.

JackFloyd | 3/5 |

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