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Peter Hammill - Nadir's Big Chance CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill


Eclectic Prog

3.77 | 291 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Recorded with the rest of the classic Van der Graaf Generator lineup, Nadir's Big Chance was put together at a point when the band had already decided to officially reform, so I tend to view it as a companion piece to Fool's Mate: like that album, it consists of shorter, snappier songs that Hammill felt didn't fit the VdGG sound and so wouldn't be appropriate for a band album. (Well, People You Were Going To was VdGG's first single, but the band's sound evolved so rapidly after its release that it soon didn't really fit the group's style.)

Like Fool's Mate, the album finds Hammill going through his archives and recalling younger years - with some songs written with (or by) fellow VdGG founder Chris Judge-Smith thrown into the mix to underscore that point. It's a more cohesive album than that one, though, because the songs are tied together with the Nadir concept - Hammill taking on the role of a frustrated, angry eternal teenager who just wants to rock out and isn't really addressed either by the highbrow aspirations of prog or the sleazy, slick and commercialised soul, disco or glam rock scenes.

The idea isn't explicitly expressed in all the songs, but it does lend a certain lean aggressiveness to many of the performances. The subject matter of even the less frenetic songs tends to be about lost love and teenage angst, but even this suggests that Hammill was aware of the yearning of so many music fans (including himself) for simple, direct emotional sincerity. Glam and most of the rest of the pop scene were simple and direct but lacked the sincerity, being extremely plastic and manufactured genres by that point, whilst of course prog at the time could be emotionally sincere (though we all know albums which show great technical competence but little emotion or passion) but certainly wasn't trying to be simple or direct.

These points are most directly expressed in the tracks bookending the album: the opening title track, in which Hammill (taking on the Nadir persona) rails against the increasingly stuffy musical scene, and the closing Two or Three Spectres, in which the music companies declare that there's no market for Nadir's stuff and he should come back in three years. Of course, the real-life Nadirs would kick the door down even sooner than that. But as a close to Van der Graaf Generator's three years in the wilderness, Nadir's Big Chance is great - one of Hammill's most distinctive and unusual solo albums, balancing his uncontrollable urge to rock out with his usual songwriting cleverness with skill. Plus Dave Jackson blows a mean sax across the entire record.

Warthur | 5/5 |


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