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Peter Hammill - Sitting Targets CD (album) cover

SITTING TARGETS

Peter Hammill

Eclectic Prog


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4 stars This album features some of the most popular songs of Peter Hammill (close-to-conventional- rock ones), which afterwards became live favourites for the K-Group. It's worth buying anyway, especially for newcomers. Though I do like live versions of these songs more than the studio ones, I would define "Sitting Targets" as a really strong album, performed as sincerely as ever.

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Send comments to The Thin Man (BETA) | Report this review (#17838)
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
slipperman
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars One year into the '80s, with 'Sitting Targets' Peter Hammill foreshadowed the dreary material that was to come on the rest of his '80s albums. But this album isn't all bad. It's a mixed bag, divided evenly in half between lackluster songs and highly intriguing ones. He's aided by some impressive supporting musicians, including Van Der Graaf Generator members David Jackson and Guy Evans, as well as Brand X man Morris Pert.

Opener "Breakthrough" offers a tense, paranoid set of upbeat rhythms, Hammill sounding believable as the tortured artist with a lot on his mind. This song is the only one within the album's first half that manages to do anything exciting, the next 5 hovering in that apathetic nether-zone that so much of Hammill's solo material resides in. "My Experience" was released as a single, and it indeed sounds aimed at early '80s radio: robotic, new wave-ish, awful.

It's the second half of this album that provides some challenging listening, songs with depth and fascinating twists and turns. All kinds of noises fly at you on "What I Did", with that oddball VDGG element making an appearance on "Sitting Targets". The entire back half of the album offers only high-quality moments of Hammill's peculiar schizophrenia, maintaining the focus that fans appreciate about his unique musical persona. Even brooding, proto-punk noise creeps in with closer "Central Hotel", harkening back to the 'Nadir's Big Chance' album, but more effective because it's the only song remotely like this on the whole album.

A lopsided and only half-satisfying album. Hammill's voice is getting grittier, less melodic, and that's a trait that makes his albums a little hard to listen to at times (especially if you love to hear the smoother tones that graced most of his solo and band material of the '70s). Nice to hear all the supporting musicians around this album, which helps maintain the human factor that would be lost and drowned in much of the man's '80s material.

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Send comments to slipperman (BETA) | Report this review (#17841)
Posted Friday, April 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I think "Sitting targets" and "Black box" are the best Hammill albums from 1977-1984 era. FEw of the songs became a basis for live material for K groupp and for Hammill solo concerts - and they're really worth it - Stranger still, central hotel, empresses clothes - these are great songs. This album brings some dark, claustrophobic atmosphere - [it can be heard especially in "Breakthrough", "Glue" and "Empresses clothes"] - althought it's not as tense and extreme as on "Black box". There are also songs as "sitting targets", "central hotel" and especially "what i did" - sharp, somehow "synthetic" and newwave-ish, very intriguing. And somehow these are "hits" in the manner of early '80... But still their unique Hammill songs. The only disapointing fragments are "hesitation", which lacks this special element, that makes all the other songs so powerfull, and "Ophelia" - which became very nice song in live versions - here it sounds flat and popish. All the other stuff is fantastic, and belongs to the best Hammill's songs; especially - Sign, Glue, Empresses Clothes, Breakthrough and Sitting targets.

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Send comments to kajetan (BETA) | Report this review (#73055)
Posted Saturday, March 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars In setting out to review at least one album by each of the prog rock "big N", where N is some number < 10, I have discovered that Van de Graaff Generator is sometimes included in that number. While I never acquired anything by this group, I had been drawn to several solo songs by its leader Peter Hammill. In fact, back when this album was current, I heard and was very taken with the opening cut "Breakthrough" and its slow buildup and cut-loose chorus on my campus radio station without finding out who did it. Only when I bought the album on the basis of several other interesting cuts did I rediscover the song with glee.

First of all, this is not easy music to listen to, not particularly melodic nor accessible. Hammill can be harsh, and doesn't so much sing as shout. Yet there is an underlying musicality unfettered by the 80s sound, quite an achievement given the time of release. Apart from "Breakdown", tracks like "Ophelia", "My Experience", the title cut, and "Sign" all show an uncompromising verve that is propelled by Hamill's guitars and Morris Pert's punchy percussion.

Only being familiar with a small proportion of this man's catalogue, I cannot say how this stacks up, except that it has a good number of potent moments and a denseness of sound that stands repeated listenings. Not a masterpiece, but certainly no sitting target for critics either.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#147811)
Posted Sunday, October 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Having recently purchased the remastered version of this album, I was staggered about how good it still sounds, not only sonically, due to the remastering but musically, and the passion in Hammill's voice is there for all to hear.

To suggest as some have, that Hammill merely shouts his way through albums is plainly ridiculous and shows a complete lack of musical nous, the man has passion about his music and the words he sings, and he plainly does have the best voice in prog.

The album kicks on in final style with Breakthrough, a piano intro suggests a nice easy start, but not so, this is edgy and a slight spooky feeling towards the song emanates from the echoing opening passage. This feel is compounded with the next track My Experience which starts off with a clapping sound which may sound very dated in the wrong hands but it still sounds and and urgent and the guitar work in this track is phenomenal, especially as he is not known for a heavy guitar sound.

Ophelia follows which is a much gentler track backed by strumming acoustic guitar and a great vocal performance (again) by Hammill showing a gentler side to his voice, there isn't that much respite from Hammill's passionate style vocalisings in this album, perhaps only this track, along with the beautiful Stranger Still and spooky Fogwalking soundalike Glue having a laidback feel to it.

Empresses Clothes and Hesitation are again, sung with passion by Hammill especially the end of Hesitation where he seems to be taking out frustrations about something or other in impressive style

Title track Sitting Targets is the highlight of the album for me at once both beautiful and passionate, only too aware of the dangers of modern life on the road and equates it to suicide ("To Stay Sitting Targets is Surely no Better Than Running Away...").

Signs, What I did and Central Hotel end the album in fine style, as I said previously, there is no letup or easy endings to this album, Hammill gives it full-on all the way out.

Certainly a great album, and if like me you hadn't heard it in a while I would invest in the remastered edition, it is certainly worth it.

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Send comments to Gog/Magog (BETA) | Report this review (#149715)
Posted Friday, November 09, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I absolutely love this album! The 80's sound suits the songs quite well and the overall feeling is rather upbeat for a Hammill album at least. Songwriting is strong and makes for a coherent album, unlike some of the man's solo work. Accessible melodies and catchy choruses are no exception on Sitting Targets and in my opinion Hammill has always known how to create a catchy melody without sacrificing creativity.

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Send comments to kaibe (BETA) | Report this review (#165064)
Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A full band for this Hammill solo album. I'm always pleased to see Jackson on the guest list.

Peter entered awkwardly in the eighties with "A Black Box" and I was not expecting too much out of this one. I have to say that the album starts on a good note. More on the rocking side for a while ("Breakthrough", "My Experience"), Peter gets back to a more "normal" mood with the acoustic and dark "Ophelia".

With such a line-up, it was inevitable (and very much welcome) to get some full Van Der Graaf songs. Hectic and hermetic. Here is "Empress's Clothes". Great off-beat and fine percussion work to sustain the wonderful saxing. "Hesitation" is also a track which digs into the band's repertoire.

This album also has its depressive moments, but I guess that they are impossible to avoid ("Glue"). Still, some bits of optimism would not be seen as too much of a compromise.

One of the best song is undeniably the title track. Fine backing vocals add another dimension. Peter could have developed it and make it a bit longer. Excellent instrumental part.

Actually, this album is a pleasant one. I prefer it to his late seventies production. Almost no weak songs (but not too many highlights either). It is only a shame that the charm of "Stranger Still" is ruined by the chaotic final part. but "Sign" puts things back on the good rails.

The first very average songs is "What I Did" (good question Peter!). It seems to come out the first side of "A Black Box" and all those experimentations. Not my cup of tea.

"Sitting Targets" closes as it started. Central Hotel is a rock song again. But Peter is not always at ease with such performance. The riff sounds as a Richard's one. But Peter ain't no Jagger...

I like this album. A good one.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#170746)
Posted Monday, May 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Hammill's second venture into the 80-ties. Contrasting to many of his contemporaries, that was not something he felt awkward with. Quite the contrary. His 3 preceding albums had been wilful, highly experimental and intense works, qualities that were highly appreciated in the beginning of the 80's and that got him a strong following among the new generation of artists.

This album is the first in another strong string of 3 albums that are mostly performed with classic rock band instrumentation. On the ensuing albums this band would be called 'the K Group'. On Sitting Targets, half of that band is in place with (surprise surprise) Guy Evans on drums and David Jackson on sax. The album sits somewhere between the experimental side of the preceding years and a more accessible kind of emotive art rock, similar to what Talking Heads, John Cale and David Bowie were doing around that time.

A few tracks could have been better, My Experience and especially Hesitation could have been a lot better. Also What I Did shouldn't have made it unto the album. The remainder is simply excellent. 3.5 stars for mr H.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#252778)
Posted Thursday, November 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars An accessible yet very successful art rock album from Hammill sees him continuing his blending of New Wave and punk influences with avant-garde and prog ideas. The spine- tingling opener Breakthrough includes some great bass and guitar work from Hammill, the backing band (including Guy Evans and David Jackson - making this three quarters of a Van der Graaf Generator reunion) are tight, and on the whole the poppier numbers (such as My Experience) are catchy as hell, the prickly New Wave numbers like Central Hotel are full of the neurotic energy that pervades Hammill's work, and Hammill even manages to work in a gentle number in the form of the emotive Ophelia. If you liked the two Van der Graaf albums and Hammill's late 1970s solo work, you'll find this one is another winner.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#567772)
Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Peter Hammill's tenth solo album sees him once again playing in the New-Wave style popular at the time and used on his late 70s work. Following the dissolution of his band 'Van Der Graaf Generater', Hammill's solo output had increased and this was one of many solo albums released during the 80s. People wanting something similar to Van Der Graaf Generater's material will be disappointed as all the gothic-prog for which they were known for is absent here. Instead, we have a far more aggressive, raw sound. The exception to this is 'Ophelia', this being one of Hammill's slower ballads. I won't go into detail about every track but I will just mention a few stand out tracks. I already mentioned 'Ophelia' being something of a slower ballad. This is one of the prettier songs of Hammill's output. Glue is the nearest to Van Der Graaf's well known gothic-prog sound but that is still quite a strenuous link. The title track is in a similar New-Wave vein to the rest of the album and so is pretty forgettable but still a good song. The stand out track for me is 'Sign'. It's not that different from anything else on the album but for someone reason it just appeals to me. The album then ends on two more tracks that are similar. Perhaps that's this albums weakness, it's all a bit samey. Hammill's vocals do add something extra as they are just so odd. His almost shouting on some tracks gives it raw edge that breaks it away from other New-Wave albums of the same time. The band Hammill palled together for this is impressive. Both Guy Evans (drums) and David Jackson (Sax, flute) return from Van Der Graaf. They are joined by Morris Pert and Phil Harrison who add Percussion and Synths. Together they create a very solid sound which doesn't falter throughout the whole album. However, this doesn't detract from the fact that it's difficult to listen this whole album without getting a little bored, particularly in the middle. There are some very good individual songs here, I've already mentioned 'Sign' and 'Ophelia', but they don't add up to make an all round interesting album. I would recommend for people who are interested in seeking to learn a little more about Peter Hammill's solo stuff and for those tracks just mentioned. However, it's not an essential buy.

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Send comments to 201101454 (BETA) | Report this review (#1020160)
Posted Sunday, August 18, 2013 | Review Permalink

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