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


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.43 | 2150 ratings

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5 stars I know i give five stars to some of the discs that i review but on comenting these one im seriously thinking that i should lower them all at least one point ( except Floyd,s first one). Anyway "Pawn Hearts" is over five points album. Just three songs ( i dont count the remaster bonus tracks because as Hamill says in an interview the disc is much better without them, in fact i consider to include the bonus tracks almost a sacrilege, something just for the historic researcher), but their content is like three hundred discs. All your life in three songs, everything thats really important, is possible?? Well i thought it wasnt but "Pawn hearts" is the living proof. First i want to analize some of the context first: "Pawn hearts" is Generator fourth disc, the last one before the breakdown. For my part, i consider the posterior reunion to be an altogether different group. The music still more or less the same but something is absolutely wrong were it should be right, everything is turned upside down, and you can see it especially in the lyrics. How its possible the same genius that make something like "Pawn Hearts" did something so utterly propagandistic simple-minded comun and nasty ( silly demi-modern nietzscheanism if you ask me) as "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End"?. Well a matter of discusion i agree but.. I would not dare to say....... if Hamill didnt give me a clue. In an interview ( in a page with the bands name from uk ) he said that they split because the loose the special cohesion they have after "Pawn Hearts", he says literaly that thay felt like there was a fifth member of the band, a gosthly one if you want to put it these way, and these member left just after the disc, everything is done. Once you know Hamill you know he is exscesive so its not strange such fluctuations between discs, but to be honest theres something pure that comes to fruit in the disc that is all that Hamill could really give and a little bit like they tune into a divine and raw radio frecuency. In another interview he compares Van der Graaf with Hawkwind and in their comeback you notice they are trying to reach the Hawks public: the music is rockier heavier more pagan more cliche-like more nihilistic...they are definetly more comercial and accesible to the Proto-punks. But "Pawn Hearts" is another bread, is a hundred percent art masterpiece wich disregards accesibility and temporal and market terms. In fact, financial troubles where a crucial part of Van der Graaf disolution, but not the main one as i explained. I admit that seeing the thematic enfasis of Peter Hamill ouvre is sincere that Pawns hearts admits at least to interpretations: the pagan existencial stand and the a unavoidable cristian one, the magic is the way they blend a incredible intense trip that leads some to one place and anothers to a really close but absolutely different one..because biased thinking is the too human inevitable characteristic of personality i just decided to plainly give the richest interpretation for me.

But going back to the disc, its like a ultradramatic essential condensation of the best philosophy and its core is the main philosophical trouble: i mean the problem of freedom, of trascendence and inmanence. "Lemmings" starts in the most strange almost ridicul way as Hamill utters the first words in his affected manner. But the lyrics are know everyone he loves is a Lemming and they trying to suicide ( negative nhilism) , the Lemming army says things like "For if the sky is seeded death What is the point in catching breath - EXPEL IT! What cause is there left but to die" -these last part is amazing, so moving!! You have the impression that Lemmings are a revolutionary party wich in fact can just offer fear and desilusion ( false unity and choice rejection). The music is thundering and great. Then comes the weird part wich is lyricaly an inflexion wich ends with "no life lies in the quicksand". Then enters the spooky incredible section of the technohell were "Mind and machinery box-press the dreams" is for so to speak the presentation of the ultra-ordered chaos wich the forces in the universe wich are opossing freedom impose. Then Hamill expose a kind of positive nihilism, a call for hope and braveness ( "Unite our blood, abate the flood, avert the disaster") were he states that death offers no hope. Then evreything is turned: the only choice is to live. The final try, try, try is wonderfull, aerie and lives you wanting more and intrigued.

Then starts "Man-Erg"...anyone knows of a greater song than these?. Please tell me! Is just the most moving real beatifull song that have been made IMO. Hamill is touching the Founding Stone, the Secret..You can fell it in every pore, it always makes my spine chill and my heart trembles. The first two verses comprise a whole world: all creation is played between the killers, the angels and the human traped and free in the middle. The whole human being is exposed in its essence, Freedom that is quoting Schelling "the human capacitie for (supersensible) Good and Bad". But not you can hear the confussion the very question for these freedom, nothing is taked for granted. Is the hard section with the most incredible begining, really disturbing. The music starts to lower its speed graduately, like giving room for these passion to die. Then enters the pastoral section with genius lyrics so moving in all overall aspects. Then returns the first theme closing the most perfect songs with the most perfect lines "I'm just a man, and killers, angels, all are these: Dictators, saviours, refugees In war and peace As long as Man lives" Whoaa, too much.

"A Plague of LightHouse keepers" one of the first prog "tour-the-force", but is not musical over-pretentiousness what is behind these milestone, is a thematical developement, wich ends the disc making it relieves you and getting to unkonwn heights. The first part is about the dready and confuse human condition with lines so great as "im a lonely man, my solitude is true" or "I only have blunt scissors/I only have the bluntest home". The music is a hipnotic ritornello. Then comes the part wich ends with "You'll begin to wonder if the points of all the ancient myths are solemnly directed straight at you" ( !what a line!). Then starts a musical frenzy, chaotic and disturbing, wich transform in a quiet avantgarde part were you here like ships getting near in the night. Then starts "eyewitness" the lyrics are getting to the point were the secret is going to be revealed..but not yet again...lines like "So I only think on how it might have been, Locked in silent monologue, in silent scream" give you a clue. Then starts a rockier section were putting it simple the forces of Evil present to him for their "Only intent on destroying what they've lost". Theres a metaphore of the sea and life thats going to be so important in the final unraveling of the song, hes now sended inevitably into the sea with "no harbour left to gain". Then starts a incredible section with a requiem feeling that goes into a incredibly emotional phase that leads to genial music and lyrics in an strange tempo of the "Myself won't let me Just be myself and so I am completely alone...." part. "Last stand" starts with a church-like organ with a great feeling. "The Clot thickens" is a heavy punky industrial section with lyrics like "I don't want to be one wave in the water but sea will drag me deep One more haggard DROWNED MAN...". The metaphore of the sea ( universe-life) and the wave ( individual-existence) developes. Then the character (Hamill no doubt) have to choose if he joins to the Lemmings ( notice that what is necesity in the first song is now a matter of a kind of choice). Then the final stand, the last section, that resolves everything in the disc ( musicaly and lyricaly) into positiveness: The Human is saved, he feels the pressence of God ( "I feel you around me...I know you well") and its hand reaching to help the man in a Michelangello Capilla sixtina fashion ("I feel I am drowning...hands stretch in the dark"). The mistery is firstly showed in its essence ( "Camps of panoply and majesty, what is Freedom of Choice? Where do I stand in the pageantry...whose is my voice?") and then revealed in the most simple and clear way ( "It doesn't feel so very bad now: I think the end is the start. Begin to feel very glad now: ALL THINGS ARE A PART ALL THINGS ARE APART ALL THINGS ARE A PART.) Of course evrything goes with these sliding of the A ( Unification in the sea- universe, and separation of the individual) We feel that Hamill have really grasped what the fuss is all about, we fell that hes blesed and he finaly have seen the light. Theres a really anti-modern motive in the disc ( not in the music of course), a Chestertonian look freeing itself from the confusion of psychedelic era. Its what an artwork is suposse to be and it affects you in the most intimate and positive way. Have these unique, authentic seal. Is magical, something true is expresing ( and these is utterly difficult to achieve). Hamill, I thank you.

shockedjazz | 5/5 |


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