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

STILL LIFE

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.28 | 988 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars Clearly, Hugh Banton and Peter Hammill are the defining elements of Still Life. The organ is omnipresent and dynamic, serving the even more dynamic lead vocalist. I find Still Life to be the least indulgent of the 1970s Van der Graaf Generator albums, and in spite of that, still retains histrionic vocals and ostentatious compositions fans had grown to crave. The album is remarkably inconsistent despite being the most consistent in terms of sound: While all five of the tracks are like very close sisters in terms of sound (almost identical, really), the compositions range from masterpiece status ("Pilgrims") to uninteresting ("La Rossa").

"Pilgrims" Over a satisfying organ, Peter Hammill's voice gets atmospherically falsetto, but that is part of the charm depending on the listener's mood. His voice has managed his theatrics to the point where there is softness where it must be and bite where it must be. The melody and chord progression make this one of Van der Graaf Generator's "déjà vu" tracks- for me, it's never remembered until I hear it again. Yet it is one of their finest.

"Still Life" Pensive vocals and low organ open the title track. The brilliance of this song is how Hammill's voice grows from quiet to regal to biting angst and then to lamentation, all in the course of a relatively concise piece. Everything takes a background role to his theatrics.

"La Rossa" The quiet singing over organ soon becomes flamboyant. This piece has energy but fails to engage me. It eases up in the middle, with Banton offering subtle organ bits under a saxophone motif.

"My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)" Hammill's voice is uncharacteristically deep over quiet but melodic music. Bass and saxophone enjoy some time in the fore over gentle piano. This song has one of the band's best melodies.

"Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" Alternating between heavy sax-led rock and the quieter music that pervades this album, the final, longest piece on Still Life is hard-driven, but I find it incoherent and, while far more consistent that some of Van der Graaf Generator's earlier long tracks, inconsistent in its own right. The album always loses me at this point.

Epignosis | 3/5 |

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