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Peter Hammill - What , Now? CD (album) cover


Peter Hammill

Eclectic Prog

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4 stars Isn't it amazing that somebody like Peter Hammill, who is rightfully hailed as one of the greatest lyricists and vocalists of Prog Rock attracts relatively poor attendances in these review pages, especially for his later efforts. Perhaps the good man is just too productive, which makes it hard to keep up with the output (I myself own the whole catalogue and re- visit certain albums only rarely). Or is it that he just doesn't appeal to the true progger anymore. I tend to disagree, especially listening to this recording (while I write this).

Hammill had his fling with conventional Rock/Pop patterns around 1990 but seems to remember his roots - apart from the shorter tracks perhaps - with this one, I would even go as far as saying that 'What, now' picks up where he left (and sometimes went astray) with VdG's 'Quiet Zone/Pleasure Dome'. His extragavant voice integates perfectly in the compositions, which in turn is full of imagination and depth, especially on the opening track, 'Lunatic in Knots' and 'Fed to the Wolves'. The latter is full of the atmospheres one cherished on albums such as 'Silent Corner...', 'In Camera' and 'A Black Box'. A full return to form then, if it weren't for the quite unimaginative drumming: Manny Elias is a Rock drummer, he can hold a steady, powerful rhythm, has however not a trace of the imagination of a Guy Evans, Bill Bruford etc. Then again, he's only on a few tracks here and relatively easy to ignore.

So, if you bought this album because your a VdGG/pH devotee and cannot bothered to listen to it again, or if you stopped listening after 'Pawn Hearts' or 'Nadir's...' or whatever, or even if you are a novice to Hammill's work, which you certainly shouldn't be browsing through these pages, give this album a first or second chance. It will be worth it!

Report this review (#18780)
Posted Friday, October 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is another one of the "good" albums after 1986, and it is on the more rockier side than some of the dull albums he offered post-86. Maybe it was because he was going through the VDGG back-catalogue remastering the songs for the boxset cunningly entitled "The Box",that there is a ghostly shadow of VDGG floating all over this album, especially with the long tracks. And that can't be bad. On the other hand, he's still using those horrid ambient electric guitars which annoy me a lot. Also Manny Elias is probably the least inspired drummer in the whole world. I actually saw him live during the "Noise" tour, and he was clearly struggling. Sorry Manny but I liked you better in TFF. Highlights are "Here Come the Talkies" (long proggy song à la VDGG circa Quiet Zone) , "Fed to the wolves" (spooky piece that reminds me of The House Of Usher) and "Enough", with a full choir all made of Hammill's vocals, as we love them.
Report this review (#78140)
Posted Sunday, May 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars There is little doubt that Peter IS a major personality of progressive rock music. Still, his most reviewed album so far only reached sixty three hits (of which 44 without comment).

This album is quite a good return to a more rocking character; which is quite alright with me. The structure of the band that is supporting Peter in this effort has not the full power of the "Graaf" but part of gang (Gordon and Jackson) is there and provides a great feeling overall.

The huge and so emotional "Here Comes The Talkies" is such an exceptional return to the early roots. Peter is as brilliant as he can be. There was quite a time that he didn't provide such a great song. His whole world is here: passion, complexity yet more accessible than average (but what is average in terms of Hammill albums?).

"What, Now?" is no bigger in terms of reviews on PA (only four so far). Come on guys! Peter is one of the people who made this all possible. Only four comments for this album is rather an insult o the artist.

Even if each song is no masterpiece, most are quite decent (I admit though that the trio after the great "Here Comes The Talkies" is not really thrilling) and there are some jewels as well.

The second of these ones is by no doubt "Lunatic In Knots". This is a brilliant song, full of the Graaf grandeur and feeling. It is of course needless to stress that Peter adds so much vocal maestria to this track. A rather dark mood combined to the great violin play from Stuart are excellent ingredients: they are just holding this song to another level. It is very fine musical moment indeed and the second highlight of this record.

The epic Edge Of The Road is a song which will transport you in several atmospheres, but most of this song is quiet. Tranquil. As Hammill can get. No real surprise to be honest. It is just that one is expecting probably too much when looking at the lenght of a song. Still, this is the third outstanding track of this album which is quite frankly a very good surprise. One has to acknowledge the excellent but discreet job of Jackson on the sax to feel all the excitement of this very good number.

This album is more opened to the casual fan; it should please more people than usual. At least I feel so and I can only recommend you to listen to this album. Three stars.

Report this review (#182810)
Posted Thursday, September 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars With the turn of the millennium, Hammill finally crawled out of the creative dip that had befallen him since 1984. While he had still penned the occasional good song and even a few decent albums, nothing was as consistent and gripping as his 2001 release What Now?. At certain moments, it is almost as if this album announces the imminent VDGG reunion.

Here Come the Talkies starts off like the many other good ballad he had done in the years before, but halfway in, it gradually changes into a frenzied nerve attack like we hadn't enjoyed since his last great album Patience. Sharp processed guitars, sound effects and unsettling rhythms turn this into a great progressive piece that would not misfit on VDGG's Present. The songs ends with a short reprise of the opening ballad section.

Next on are three short and sweet songs that have more inspiration and variation then on any of the preceding Hammill albums. Especially Far-Flung is most captivating with its excellent guitar picking. It's a hint of what he would do on the ensuing masterpiece Clutch.

Lunatic In Knots is a longer piece that ends somewhere halfway between Hammill's reflective moods and the more brooding tendencies of VDGG's Still Life. By the end it picks up some speed but the rather straightforward 4/4 beat doesn't really do it justice. As on most of the preceding Hammill albums, I can't say I'm very impressed by the unimaginative drumming of Manny Elias.

The ten minute long Edge of the Road isn't a progressive track (if you would have hoped for that) but a good extended ballad with an interesting textured sound. Again, apart from the substandard percussion, it's a good piece.

With two more tracks to go, this album could still toss either to the 3 stars or to the 4 stars side. While both Fed To The Wolves and Enough are good tracks, they aren't any better then just good.

The next album Clutch was recorded without percussion. Hammill would return to the idiom of Chameleon In The Shadow of the Night and deliver one of his best albums in a long long while. What Now? can't claim similar excellence but its nevertheless a very consistent album. 3 solid stars.

Report this review (#253779)
Posted Tuesday, December 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Peter Hammill's "What, Now?" is a softer album for the visionary of Van der Graaf Generator. It contains some mesmirising beauty such as the lovely 'Far-flung (across The Sky)' with Hammill gentler than one may have heard him. There are true moments of heart felt poetic splendour such as on Wendy & The Lost Boy; "Sometimes the boy denies the man, sometimes the boy defies the man, flying in the shade of Peter Pan, Wendy, maybe you still remember this, a touch a kiss, that lasts forever, but time and tide runs in conspiracy, Wendy, I still believe the promise is the boy 's alive, the boy is in the man!"

Apart from the emphasis on tranquil ambience, there is a fair share of heavier songs such as the awesome 'Here Come The Talkies' clocking almost 10 minutes and featuring Hammill's angular guitar riff. He is more aggressive on this and it is definitely one of the better tracks of his solo career. At about 7 minutes in the song settles into a relaxing piano and serene vocals as a stark contrast.

It is nice to hear David Jackson's saxophones and flute on 'The American Girl' and 'Edge of the Road'. This latter song has a beautiful intro with the sax following along slide guitar and Hammill's thought provoking vocals. There is a dreamy atmosphere on this 10 minute track that has a calming effect. The lyrics are compelling; "someday he'll make his way home, will the man of the moment finally make himself known, and lay down his load, at the edge of the road." At 5: 40 the song becomes entrancing with a flute solo and chinking percussion, as a low drone intensifies creating an ominous atmosphere. Jackson's sax is tantalising, he is so welcome on these solo albums, adding more depth and emotion. This song is definitely one of the highlights of "What, Now?"

At times Hammill regresses to the darker textures that he seems to revel in on every solo album, in this case the darkest track is the boisterous creepy 'Fed To The Wolves'. Stuart Gordon's violins screech very eerie tones as Hammill unleashes guitar crashes to generate an ethereal soundscape. It goes on a bit too long without enough variation but still holds interest for the most part.

'Enough' is also darker with some eerie music and a low chanting male choir. Hammill lapses into his reflective mode thinking about life and death, "not that, but this, not why, but how, not if, but when, not soon, but now." The soundscape is rather abnormal, sounding dissimilar to anything Hammill has done before.

'The American Girl' also features beautiful sax tones. Hammill's storyteller vocals have more urgency as he sings of the girl who "blew in like a breath of fresh air", and "cut her teeth on the old world" that "seemed perfect". She has a major clash with the culture, and the language, and thus feels confused in this new land. A short song but with interesting content.

The songs are not as memorable as his earlier material but this solo album is still very good with some moments of brilliance and overall I was quite surprised at how consistent this relatively unknown album is.

Report this review (#613579)
Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 | Review Permalink

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