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


Peter Hammill

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars I must say this one doesn't do much to me and actually slightly annoys me and listening to it one understands he saved his best stuff for VDGG as they were back together. Out of Memory (I give you no garantee about my possibilities of mistake), I think this was a thematic album (not a concept) about Nadir (of Arab origin) and his adaptation to Britsh society. The first number is quite punkish and the next few are too hard rockish for my taste. I think that thacks 5, 6, 7 & 8 are actually much more in line with what we were used to. Not his best album to start with , though.
Report this review (#17771)
Posted Friday, February 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars I know a lot of prog heads don't dig this album for a variety of reasons. They can all go to hell. This is Hammill's finest hour hands down. No, there are no "Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" or such things here.There are no odd time signatures, no meandering wayward musical moments. Nothing like that at all. On this album, Peter may have been taking the piss out of the then current rock & roll scene (the ill reasoned glam disgust of the lead off track), but while doing so, made one of the ultimate rock & roll albums of the 1970's. It is the definitive bridge between the glitter era and the punk era and sounds every bit connected to both. Long aknowleged as a favorite of Sir Johnny Rotten, it's easy to see why. It's got venom and anger but also has great melodies and some killer guitars! His vocals are stunning! "Birthday Special" is one of the best songs ever by anyone. It is punk rock. This is definitely not like any other record he has ever made before or since and has always left me wishing he would. It is such a poweful LP...the songs are absolutely fantastic, and the production is 100% killer. It is the anti Glam disguised as the punk is Rael and it is real. It is is is simple...(it really has nothing to do with "prog") will kill you and leave you smiling. It is all aces in my book. So, yeah, I kinda like it.
Report this review (#17773)
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Possibly the only album that can please both fans of progressive and punk! This is the fifth excellent solo album by Hammill: both with VDGG and solo he seemed to be unable to write bad songs during this golden age. There's a lot of fury here, but I find absolutely unforgettable dark and dramatic ballads like "Shingle"...
Report this review (#17775)
Posted Sunday, October 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Probably not too hard to figure out how I stand concerning this lp is it? To me, it really is quintessential Hammill. It does have most of the usual love it or hate it (the whole album), there are moments of musical sophistication rubbing shoulders with raw aggression (Institute of Mental Health), pure aggression (Nobody's Business, Birthday Special), emotive beauty (Been Alone So Long) aching melancholy (Shingle Song) sarcastic jibes (the title track, Two or Three Spectres), stately art rock (Pompeii). They are all merely articulated in shorter songs with less time signature changes. Yes the guitars are way up front and dominate many songs and there is a raucous edge to the whole thing but it is still classic Hammill in every way. Favorite tracks are "Institute of Mental Health, Burning", "Open Your Eyes", "Been Alone So Long" (A lovely Chris Judge Smith contribution), "Airport", and "Birthday Special" (FANTASTIC!). Not prog, but not exactly punk either, though attitudes and elements of both are present. Just a great album.
Report this review (#45264)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well this album seems to divide prog lovers, is it really prog? Well if you just pigeonhole progressive rock as having 20 minute epics with widdly keyboard solos and tricky time signatures well then it wouldn't be "progressive".

This album is progressive in many ways, as along with other some other artists of the time (i.e. Bowie, Wire) they were progressing from the early '70s sound into something new and more energetic, but enough of that how about the album itself.

"Nadirs Big Chance" starts of with balls and just keeps going, punky some people say? Well yes, but in a good way, not the punk of tuneless thrashing, but anger at what was going on around at the time within the music industry and other corporate bigwigs.

"Institute of Mental Health (Burning)" is a change of direction from the anger and angry music of Nadir... but still has a message, about peoples readiness to close away their problems and yes the mentally ill being locked away and forgotten about, a great tune with a military style beat, I especially like the repeated "burning, burning burning" at the end.

"Open Your Eyes" is a great song, greatly under appreciated and undervalued when Hammill's music is talked about, its a bit of "Northern Soul Stomper" (google it if you don't know) with great keyboards and sax accompaniments.

"Nobody's Business" another punky style song, about peoples vanities..."she used to care about her smile and not her face...that's before it was her fortune and took over her soul's place" wonder if its based on personal feelings?

The next four tracks take the pace down considerably "Been Alone So Long" is a gorgeous love song written by Chris Judge Smith, with mournful sax playing by Jaxon. "Pompeii" is another song of Hammill's I think is undervalued has a lovely shuffling beat, maybe about the duality of time, looking back reflecting at what you see today. "Airport" and "Shingle Song" seem interconnected with each other somebody you love leaves, standing on the tarmac of the runway, or on the beach looking out to sea after the boats departed.

"People You Were Going To" is an old VDGG song reinvigorated for this album, sort of darkly humourous lyrics, upping the tempo slightly from the previous four tracks.

"Birthday Special" really ups the pace again superb lyrics, a cautionary tale of a girl on her eighteenth birthday dabbling in drugs, with drug references interspersed throughout, cleverly hidden within the lyrics.

Finally "Two or Three Spectres" all I can say about this song is SUPERB, a wordy, stinging vitriolic attack on the music industry, with Hammill exclaiming "Oh, whaddya say, more Stevie Wonder, ha, ha" at the start, his lyrical zenith. Probably the hardest song to get into on the album as the melody is not as immediately apparent but well worth listening to a few times, and a rousing false live ending. (10,000 arms are raised just like the Hitler Youth...) goosebumps everytime.

Nadir? certainly NOT a low point.

So prog? Yes

4.5 of your universal stars!

Report this review (#72141)
Posted Friday, March 17, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album is a mixed business. The title track is punk before the punk movement. (He has always been ahead of his time musically). Although there are some other songs in the punkish style, they do not reach the same level as Nadir and remain neglifgible. Apart from these songs, some other songs are more into the Hammill vein that we love; mainly "Institute of Mental Health" which is a weird but delicious song about a fire in an inmates institute. It also has the superb "Shingle" which sends shivers down my spine everytime I hear it, as well as "Pompei" and the wonderful "Been Away so Long". Mixed business, ahead of its time, but not essential.
Report this review (#77948)
Posted Friday, May 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I started to collect PH's LPs, this one intrigued me the most. Reportedly being an influence for JOHNNY ROTTEN in his stint with that so -called leading UK punk band a year later. Being a fan of certain punk bands from this era, I couldnt wait to here Hammilll doing it. Overall there are only 2 tracks of this nature on the LP. The title track and Birthday Special. You have to remember that this was a clear year before the Punk scene took to the UK. PH was clearly trying to create the sound of a somewhat underehearsed rock and roll band with loose playing and some deliberate bum notes. The results simply pre-dated the scene by a year, from what appears to be by total accident. Prog purists need not be put off by this. The rest of the album contains some solid tunes in the moody vein of the previous releases. However the more experimental side is really left off this album. No long tracks or complex time signatures can be found here. Highlights include the beautiful ballad Been Alone So Long and the excellent remake of VDGG's People You Were Going To. I have to admit that I've never heard to original so can't compare to it, but the version on this LP is superb, The lyrics are just so depressing in a tongue in cheek kind of way. Birthday Special is also great. It's sounds so like punk- before-punk, it's scary!

An excellent record with some really great tunes, well worth obtaining.

Report this review (#114679)
Posted Friday, March 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Peter Hammill's prot punk / progrock hybrid mix album, yup this is an wierd album its a mix of early punk rock and prog. And to be honest this is not my favorite solo hammill, sure its a good and intresting album but in the end im not a very big punk head so i gues thats why i dont like this as much as his other ones before this, theres some good songs but allso some i dont realy cear for that much. My favorites are Nadir's Big Chance, People You Were Going To and Birthday Special. the rest are good but some a bit boring. Still this is one of the best punkrock albums ever, not saying much tough since most punk albums sucks. This one even was a inspiration to some punk bands. An intresting album but not realy essential in a prog rock collection, if you wana hear an intresting prog punk mix sure try it but if you dont like punk do not bother. Not surpringly this album is very high regarded by most pop music rewievers and fans i seen it rated very high and sugested as the best hammill album in some music books i read. Anyway i give it 3.5 stars. Good, but non-essential.
Report this review (#161706)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Here we go with the great VDGG line-up again. The whole of the four are back in business, for my biggest pleasure. If I would have been Peter, I would have called this album "Zenith's Big Chance".

The opening song sounds truly punkish avant la lettre. But Hammill (as Marc Bolan) will have an enormous aura (believe it or not) amongst many punk bands (of which the Pistols are not the least important). A wild and dynamic start. I have never heard the Graaf nor Hammill with such a hard attack. Special, to say the least.It might have been a source of inspiration for "X-Ray Spex" (Oh Bondage, Up Yours").

This album is quite different from his previous "solo" work. To imagine that it was recorded the same year as "Godbluff" is quite amazing. Nothing to do with each other of course. And in terms of popularity, when I see the very few commented reviews about this work, it also shows some indications.

Still, this album needs to be discovered. Of course, the harder approach might trouble lots of progheads, but even so, Peter is still able to be touchy and melodic. "Open Your Eyes" is just an example to highlight this. A fantastic sax play and heavy keys for a very sustained piece of music.

This album is highly rocking. Never the sound of any Hammill nor VDGG has been so wild. Maybe what the man felt in this particular moment of his live. Difficult to apprehend for a long time fan. The British punk scene was of course non-existing at this time, but needless to say that the new wave movement was already very present in New-York (Television, Talking Heads, Patti Smith etc.). So maybe that this wall of energy touched Peter.

There are still some more traditional songs as the beautiful "Been Alone So Long". The sweetest song from "Nadir". Full of poetry and melancholic. What a contrast with most of the songs featured here. But I guess that this can be called talent. At least it is how I feel in these circumstances.

There are no weak songs on "Nadir" but no masterpieces either. It is all pleasant and enjoyable music (except maybe "People You Were Going To"). "Shingle" and "Airport" are the most classic ones and should appeal to any Hammill fans. As a wink, another punkish song is featured at the end of this album: Birthday Place. Another funny moment. Totally out of the traditional repertoire. But so amazing...

Another huge track is the closing Two Or Three Spectres. Maybe the most VDGG oriented one and therefore my fave. One can appreciate the great and inspired sax play (this man is really great).

All in all, this is a good album. Surprising during several tracks, it gets back to the roots during some other ones. Three stars.

Report this review (#169853)
Posted Sunday, May 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
3 stars Review , Nadir's Big Chance, Peter Hammill, 1974

Just before the big reunion of Van Der Graaf Generator for the amazing Godbluff, Peter Hammill gathered up and recorded this selection of essentially pop/punk songs in so distinctive a fashion that it seems to have caught on quite well with his more eclectically-minded fan base. Naturally, the playing from Banton, Evans and Jaxon is fantastic, and Hammill's vocals are simply incredible. The lyrics are, of course, thoughtful and well-written even when the general effort appears to be to put out a simple album. Every song is memorable, moving at times, and some are extremely effective. Perhaps the best chunk of the album is the balladic material in the middle (Been Alone So Long, Shingle Song and Airport), though Open Your Eyes and the title track are equally impressive in their own way. All in all, not a must for any progressive music fan, but a solid addition for anyone who loves Hammill's voice and lyrics or is secretly quite fond of progressive pop. Sure, it's not a breakthrough or forty minutes of near-perfection, like a couple of Hammill's albums, but certainly not a bad way to spend however much a CD costs in your part of the world.

Nadir's Big Chance is a rather bizarre break with anything Van Der Graaf Generatory, bursting through with an insistent rhythm, somewhat aggressive and growling vocals from Hammill, complementing the general guitar-playing, chair-smashing lyrical feel. Evans provides a good beat, Jaxon scrails away in a whirl of soloistic flair that initially had me uncertain of whether it was a guitar or not (hey, I'm still not entirely certain at times). The bass is a constant rhythmic pull, and adds a couple of extremely neat higher-level flourishes. The lyrics, though a tad buried by the general loud aggression of the piece, are great fun, and fit the piece perfectly (gonna scream, gonna shout, gonna play my guitar/Until your body's rigid and you see stars).

A Guy Evans militaristic drum-roll segue leads us onto the quirky The Institute Of Mental Health, Burning, which features more excellent playing, particularly on the menacing bass and/or piano notes. An acoustic sort of tags along with the vocals, initially, while Hammill's vanishing-into-mid-air electric tones trade ideas with Jaxon's stonking sax. A complex piece, with a lot of cool melodies crammed in as well as unusual melodic effects, but also quite catchy in its own way ('Can't call the fire brigade, none of them have been paid'). This track is the essential one for the serious Van Der Graaf Generator fan, being a bit more in their vein than the other stuff on here.

Open Your Eyes is another punkier number, with some general banter opening it together with a couple of fairly basic layers of organ from Hugh Banton. A spattering of good humour comes off nicely, conveyed by a trademark Peter-Hammill-Sounds-Nothing-Like-Peter-Hammill vocal. The lyrics fit well, though song's whimsical nature sort of necessitates them not dominating the song too much. Banton's stabbing organ throughout the piece is a force of considerable rock, as is the electric shunted in under a splintering Jaxon take and an array of percussive sounds. Potent, great fun.

Nobody's Business continues the general loudness of the album, with a dense bass-led rhythm providing a background for the distorted range of vocals, some general sax patterns and an occasional percussion flourish. The lyrics are good, the general rhythm hits, but the real standout feature is Hammill's voice of general force and fun.

Been Alone So Long is a truly amazing love song, with sorrowful, sustained acoustics, touching sax and a vocal which is truly amazing for how unassertive and uncertain it sounds. The Chris Judge-Smith lyrics are essentially perfect. I really do have nothing to say about this, other than that it is probably my favourite 'ballad' ever. I don't understand why, yet, but it is.

A segue takes us onto Pompeii, another of the album's 'quirky' pieces, with an odd percussion rhythm underneath the whole piece, and a couple of saxophone and guitar melodies providing flavour. Every now and then, a bass note does something mildly significant. The almost-grandiose vocals, though excellent, are again only slightly reminiscent of Hammill, and the restrictions of the rhyme scheme do come across a bit more than I'd perhaps like; the lyrics are also good, though not as memorable as many of Hammill's more personal choice. Still a good piece, overall.

Shingle Song is the second 'ballad' of the album, with a movingly honest vocal and a surprisingly sharp acoustic taking the lead. The effective Evans-Banton rhythm section continues to contribute very strongly even in a very soft song, which is, in my view, the real mark of a versatile rhythm section. The piano is extremely moving and pretty. Subtle and . A lamenting Jaxon solo takes the limelight, flowing right into the soul-tearing vocal

'Look at the sky, but it's empty now Look at the sea, it holds nothing but despair I raise my eyes, but my head stays bowed Look to my side, but you're not there'

An incredibly moving and touching song. Not to be missed.

Airport is probably the most unusual of the album's love songs, complete with unpredictably-located harmonies, little melodic catches from the guitar and sax, as well as a fast-paced, hard-guitar-and-stabby-sax jabs at one point. It's sort of a shame that, as Hammill notes, the very blunt tape-runs-out ending doesn't pay off at all. The lyrics are, again, very moving. Highly commendable overall, even if that ending is the album's most obvious weakness.

People You Were Going To and Birthday Special are, in my opinion, the two weakest songs on the album, and the combination of the two brings it down a bit for me. Nonetheless, the hammering piano and the classy Hammill vocals on People is a pretty killer combination, and with the organ and solid percussion additions as well, it's musically quite strong. The only problem is that the lyrics are a touch weaker than I'm used to from Hammill, and so, like White Hammer, it gets a bit more flak from me than it musically deserves.

Birthday Special is another song which is musically great fun, but slightly weaker on the lyrics. The guitar, bass and drums all hammer home their point in an insistent way. The vocals are quite amusing, but wear off after a while, and while the essential message is entertaining enough, and you can see what Hammill's trying to do, it doesn't always quite work. Not bad, just a touch less powerful than the rest of the album.

Two Or Three Spectres is an, in context, fairly odd unsegued piece, driven by the lump of amusing, sarcy and biting lyrics. We can see a couple of subtle electric guitar and piano effects from Godbluff in use, and Jaxon is on absolutely top form in this song, providing lush licks and jarring wails alternately. Dense, thick with effects, full of jabs at the industry and ending with an extremely memorable blocky vocal section ('ten thousand peace signs, but they look different from the back'.

There are albums which I enjoy much less than this which got four stars from me. I don't consider this absolutely essential in the way that The Silent Corner is, but it's still very good if you get it, most definitely progressive at times, full of artistic merit, and solid on the lyrics. Essential for fans of Hammilldegraafgenerator, a good choice for anyone else. Probably the best album I'll give three stars to.

Rating: Three Stars Favourite Track: Lots of good picks, but Been Alone So Long takes it. Honourable mention to NBC itself.

Report this review (#189105)
Posted Thursday, November 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Nadir's Big Chance is Hammill's so-called pre-punk statement. While it sure has a rougher edge then his previous work, it is actually more appealing for its exceptional ballads than for the (by punk standards) rather complex rock songs. Anyway it's definitely more immediate than anything else Hammill had recorded until then.

All songs contain lots of catchy hooks and are completely devoid of some of the experimentalism of previous albums. It reminds me very much of the equally enjoyable Fool's Mate album but it's harder and rawer. A very big step away from the complexity of its predecessors and a key album in Hammill's continuing progression as writer and performer. 3.5 stars

Report this review (#237552)
Posted Sunday, September 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Peter Hammill's 'Nadir's Big Chance' is a blitzkrieg attack from end to end on love, loss and alienation.

The music is compelling and it is lyrically poetic with a tour de force performance from Hammill. It is one of Hammill's heaviest trips and delivers on every level. 'Nadir' begins with the raucous title track with such moving lyrics as "if the guitars don't get you the drums will.." Hammill screams the lyrics, similar to 'Arrow' on 'Godbluff'. It is a Sex Pistols meet Van der Graaf Generator excursion into high strangeness. There is a blistering keyboard solo that goes off the scale before we get those drums at the end that segue into 'The Institute of Mental Health, Burning'.

Hammill is more laid back on this with his patented crooning vocals about an Institute that's burning... burning... burning... burning. It feels tongue in cheek except Hammill is so full of conviction in his delivery, as he is on all his performances. 'Open Your Eyes' features scintillating sax and some stabs of organ that work well together. There is a sense of ominous tension throughout. The instrumental section features shimmering organ and the staccato sax stabs are relentless, similar to early VDGG.

Another highlight worth mentioning is 'Shingle'. The quiet minimalist acoustic approach work well to create tension and melancholia. The suicide friendly lyrics are more existential than others on the album. "All the elements rage to explain that I should really be on my way, there is something that ensures that I must stay..." Hammill says he can't get you out of my mind and we believe him. The sax chimes in creating a brooding sorrowful sombre tone. The melody is subtle but effective and it quite a low chord that Hammill reaches. The instrumental features an odd time sig guitar with haunting sax echoing over. The ambience is uncanny and it is chilling to hear Hammill sing "I raise my eyes but my head stays bowed" as he seems deep in regret, the sense of alienation and loss is strong.

Another highlight is 'Airport' with Hammill in painful suicidal contemplation, "I stand on the tallest building and stare down at the grey runway... and the tail smoke of the Boeing jet that's taken you so far away". He farewells his love as she flies off and cries out that she may return. Emotional and poignant, but never indignant, Hammill manages to masterfully capture the simple feeling of losing a loved one. The sax once again is well executed, but Hammill's guitar crunches to provide a heavier atmosphere. The time sig changes midway through reminding one of the great VDGG days. He stands on the observation tower crying watching the plane soar up in to the grey sky. "All I can now do is walk away alone without you."

Worthy of note is also 'Birthday Special', another loud menacing track with Hammill's searing conviction. Great bass lines in this track and a crunching guitar with chomps of sax and drums, subtle it aint! "I've got something to say and it aint the usual sorta sob story that you hear every day". The scratchy vocals return on this and it has a strong rhythm, rocking along easily with some strange chord changes. "Birthday Girl! There's ice in the cauldron, look out now!" Complete with "Parrots in the pantry and Lizards in the loo" this is something special "like Hansel and Gretel never had". Strange song, strange lyrics and strange music merge together to create a freak out boisterous track that will scare the neighbours.

No wonder Johnny Rotten endorsed this album as an inspiration. Overall this is one Hammill album that stands out among the rest. Recommended to all VDGG and Hammill addicts. ****

Report this review (#272688)
Posted Thursday, March 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I must admit i'm a little surprised at how low this is rated. I'm sure it's reputation as an album that helped inspire the Punk Movement doesn't help, but I also think that belief is misleading and over-done. Sure there's a couple of tracks that sound punkish but you can say the same about a couple of Brian Eno and ROXY MUSIC's songs as well back then. Peter Hammill himself says that "Fool's Mate" and this one are a collection of pop songs end of story, but even that is a little misleading because if anyone who's into pop music heard this album they'd say this is not pop. It's not that proggy that's all so...oh by the way Peter's VDGG mates help him out on this album which is a really good thing. By the time this album was recorded VDGG had decided to reform.They recorded this live in the studio and would do the same on the "Godbluff" album that they were about to record as VDGG.

"Nadir's Big Chance" is a powerful little number with Hammill's voice sounding rougher than usual. Gotta love the blasting sax. "The Institute Of Mental Health, Burning" is such a great title.This one stands alone really because it is so psychedelic sounding. "Open Your Eyes" has a chaotic intro then it settles with organ. Drums and sax come to the fore and this really sounds good just like VDGG. Check out the organ before 3 minutes. "Nobody's Business" is interesting with the vocals that echo while drums and sax standout. "Pompeii" opens with a beat and guitar as vocals join in before a minute. I like this. "Shingle Song" has reserved vocals and strummed guitar. A heavier sound before a minute with drums and sax. Love the instrumental section after 2 minutes. Hammill says his one regret with this album was the way the song "Airport" ends. Basically it stops suddenly like they cut the tape. He changed it a little on this re-issue so it's not as harsh an ending.This track is almost catchy until just before 2 minutes when it briefly turns aggressive.

"People You Were Going To" is my favourite. It's a remake of a single that the Keith Ellis-era VDGG originally recorded and released. Piano and drums to start as vocals join in. Sax follows.This one is all about the lyrics. Great song ! The instrumental section after 3 minutes is so good. "Birthday Special" is uptempo as Hammill spits out the lyrics. Even he admits this is punkish. "Two Or Three Spectres" is the longest track at almost 6 1/2 minutes and the only tune that Hammill wrote entirely with his bass.This one is catchy with vocals,sax and a beat leading the way.

Easily 4 stars but then again i'm a big fan of "Fool's Mate" so it just goes to show...

Report this review (#326857)
Posted Saturday, November 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#535412)
Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars "I've got something to say and it ain't the usual sob story that you hear everyday."

That line from Nobody's Business sums up this Hammill album almost perfectly. The man had something to say that he hadn't yet gotten the nerve to utter. If one prog artist had multiple- personality disorder, that man was Peter Hammill, going from the pompous prog-rocker he normally was to the angst-ridden yet thoughtful Rikki Nadir.

Obviously, there's a large stylistic shift in the music, not any tracks are suites or epics but that's part of the album's charm. I absolutely love Hammill's ability to make whatever he sings great and that shines brightly on Nadir, every song is well done, going from ballads to punk rhythms, from lullabies to mad shrieks, it's just amazing.

If your a fan of the somewhat self-indulgent VDGG Peter Hammill, this album is not for you. But if you enjoy albums that aren't the norm but should be loved just because they aren't the norm, try Nadir out. It's a wonderful album, the missing link between punk and prog. You'll find yourself singing the songs after you listen.

4 solid stars, second only to Over.

Report this review (#571891)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars When you think of progressive rock, the last band to come to mind would probably be the Sex Pistols, a group notorious for hating the genre to the point that burning life sized effigies of Keith Emerson was not uncommon practice at its shows. Considering this, imagine my surprise when I first discovered that John Lydon was a fan of none other than Peter Hammill. Not being all that well acquainted with Hammill's career at the time, I struggled to make the connection. What relationship could there be between Hammill's musings on louses and lighthouse keepers and the Sex Pistols' straightforward brand of punk rock?

This is the answer.

When I decided on a whim to pick up a cheap, used copy of Nadir's Big Chance at my local record store, put it on the car stereo, and pressed play for the first time, everything made sense. The opening track features Hammill in full-on pissed off mode as he nearly screams lyrics about how he's "gonna scream gonna shout gonna play [his] guitar" while his Van der Graaf bandmates make a wild, chaotic racket in the background. Even though it was recorded in 1975, this first track is very much punk, but at the same time it's clearly 100% Hammill. Oh, and it kicks some pretty serious @$$ too.

Still, title track included, I wouldn't say there are more than three LOUD, straightforward rockers in total on this disc, the others being "Nobody's Business" and the lyrically fantastic "Birthday Special" (both of which I love very much, if you must know). One thing which really stands out to me about Nadir is the sheer variety of material on offer here and, unlike quite a bit of Hammill's solo career, it's all very accessible and melodic. By a hair, my favorite track might just have to be "Open Your Eyes". I love how Hammill almost seems to be singing under the instrumentation in the verses before soaring above everything else when he sings "and I opened my EYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEES!" It's absolutely gorgeous, not to mention the fact that both Hugh Banton and Dave Jackson kill on this track. There's a fine line between chaos and absolute beauty here unsurpassed anywhere else on this album.

There are also a few ballads. "Been Alone So Long" makes my heart want to melt every time I hear it (God, I can't believe I just wrote that, but it's true), and although it took awhile for "Pompeii" to grow on me, I now find myself listening to it more than nearly anything else on the disc. I'm also a big fan of "The Institute of Mental Health, Burning." The combination of the bizarre, sarcastic (almost joyful) lyrics with Guy Evans's eerie repeating drum pattern just works...somehow. There's even a re-recording of an old Van der Graaf Generator song, "People You Were Going To," which--despite a few awkward lyrics--comes off a great success. If there's a weak moment, though, I must confess that I've never been a fan of "Shingle Song". Lacking any interesting performances or notable hooks, it simply fails to keep my attention.

In the end, all flaws aside, this is a well constructed, melodic, diverse album of short, digestible songs. It bears mentioning, before I wrap up, that this album has one of the coolest atmospheres on any record I have ever heard, certainly different from Hammill's other work--dark, mysterious, somehow innocent--I'm not totally sure how to describe it. Listen and you'll see what I mean. Although this is quite different from the stuff VdGG was doing at around the same time, the band plays absolutely fantastic on here, and it almost goes without saying that Hammill's vocal performances are simply FANTASTIC, even if I get the feeling that the lyrics might not cut quite as deep as usual. Still, this is undoubtedly one of his best. Johnny Rotten liked it enough to play two tracks from it on national radio, and I must say that--for once--I am in total agreement. Recommended for anyone looking for an accessible way to get into Peter Hammill's work.

4 Stars

Originally posted (by me) on

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Posted Monday, March 24, 2014 | Review Permalink

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