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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

3.26 | 415 ratings

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Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Like most listeners, I stumbled upon Aerosol Grey Machine years after having been consumed by the brilliance of albums like The Least We Can Do, H to He, Pawn Hearts and Godbluff. I had been given the prior impression that this was a virtually unrecognisable record in which Hamill goes through a lot of embarassing hippie cliches. As such Aerosol Grey Machine was a wonderful surprise. It's an extremely confident, expressive debut album that can hold its own among alongside the tentative late 60s debuts of Yes and Genesis (which I also happen to enjoy, by the way). In fact, while I will say that this record doesn't reach the heights of the suceeding four VDGG albums, I actually prefer it to the dense, depressing records that follow Godbluff (Still Life and the like) and I believe it to be an important part of the band's catalogue.

The odd hint of 60s pop on Orthenthian Street and the garish music hall chaos of the brief title track aside, many of the hallmarks of the great VDGG sound are present here. The darkness of Afterwards and Necromancer, the psychedelic tinges of Running Back (which sounds like one of Quintessence's or Traffic's flute-led psych jams) and the mind-boggling atmospheric changes of Into A Game (damn thing even gets funky at one point) show that even at early juncture point in their career, VDGG were somewhat ahead of their time. Sure the actual instrumental involvement may seem somewhat subdued, but it's not as if VDGG is a band that thrives on rip-roaring solos anyway.

If there's any real complaint it might be the lack of a truly exceptional song on this record ... or that it lacks sufficient variety from track to track. One could argue that by the halfway point, everything that is going to be said has already been said ... which is far from the unpredictable streak that VDGG possessed on subsequent albums. The lengthier pieces that close out the album (Black Smoke Yen and Octopus, which is probably my favourite track on the album) promise much, but lack the darker, frenzied edge that is a crucial element of this outstanding group's music. Dynamics, unlike rip-roaring solos, are indeed crucial to VDGG!

There is nonetheless a quaint allure to Aerosol Grey Machine, and I dare say that it come close to competing with the 2005 reunion album Present (to go right to the opposite end of the scale) for my favourite VDGG album outside of the big four that followed this. Personally, I always get a real kick out of imaging a stoner hippie audience confronted by a switched on Van Der Graaf Generator! ... 60% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |

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