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Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.42 | 1961 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars "Lemmings" (8.5 / 10) - Peter Hammill has a liking to imitate or sing in unison with a guitar line. It's a cool texture, as is Hammill's voice. It's such an odd tinge about it.. It may be found obnoxious by some, but it's one of my personal favorites, a sound that belongs specifically to this band. With the saxophones and variety of keys accompanied by an expressive drummer and bass for a solid rhythm section, it's a really cool blend of sound. This piece is dynamic and has some unexpected jumps between dissonant sections and more melodically accessible ones. It adds to the chaotic and unsettling sound of Van der Graaf. The song still has catchier moments but a good amount of hectic, rushy moments. The final section is an interesting choice to end the piece on. My friends usually find it weird and anticlimactic. I found it to be a dark descent into a calm aftermath of uncertainty. It is unsettling and it rocks. Not for all ears, but I really like what they've done in this track.

"Man-Erg" (8.5-9.0 / 10) - I love this tune. The opening movement sounds hopeful and has a feel about things being "right". In fact I remember reading somewhere that "erg" means "in the right place, at the right time, in the right state of mind, etc." (that may have been somewhere on this site years ago or so..) Yet the song is about a man who's insane, with "a killer living inside" him, which just adds to the irony of the title. But then the song breaks out into a section in 11/8 with tritones and saxophone (note: the man plays two saxophones at once!) dissonant chords, almost sounding randomized, as the man wails about his insanity The song does settle down into a confused, but at times resolving minor section played in swing. Then we become fully settled down back into what was the intro piano chords and verses. The song reaches its climax, which still has its moments of whole-tone and other dissonant movement between intervals to keep us on our toes, before combining the 11/8 section with the chorus, making a thickly-textured polyrhythm that really pushes the song to true insanity before the 11/8 comes back to make its final statement. It then ritards, and the notes then descend unstably into a final major resolve to conclude this great, GREAT track!

"A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" (9.0-9.5 / 10) - This dark masterpiece is one of the most memorable moments of this band and the genre as a whole, if you ask me. Again, Peter Hammill mocks his melody of the keys in the gloomy opening. The music makes an almost disturbing turn with powerful saxes with a bass texture, giving it extra presence, in what turns down to dissolve into some very dark, spacey playing on the keys. Many unusual intervals. It's hard to locate what could be considered the tonic, our resolve in this section. It's gloomy and wonderfully done. It finally resolves as the opening section returns once again. The song then turns into a more rocking, driving section. The open high-hat set a cool groove here. But once again we take a turn into darker territories into a minor key with some sax improve and moving lines from the keys and bass. It fades as a reverberating Hammill provides the creeping transition with the line "Would you cry if I died?" The transitions all come in confused and rather irregular fashions, but they cannot be described as awkward. The music obviously has heavy imprints of insanity all over it. The madness continues through the next two sections before the ever hopeful (by comparison tho the previous sections), and melodically pleasing Custard's Last Stand. But one more descent is made into the most chaotic part yet. It's intense and very unsettling. Golly, this is a really dark song all around. The final resolve is so very abrupt, but rewarding, for the ending minutes of this song are just gorgeous. A very hopeful glow is about them as the character finally settles down and feels glad about where he is now (I honestly didn't delve into the lyrics too deeply. Just know it's all dark and ominous). This is a great track. Very much seeming scatterbrained at times, but the song is insane in manner.

I'm sorry for the rambling of that last track. I just tried to cover what all flies over in the song. This album is very solid. I love the moods, performances all around, and every idea is developed and expanded upon just enough if you ask me. There are many excellent moments to be had here.

JCDenton | 5/5 |


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