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Van Der Graaf Generator - Present CD (album) cover

PRESENT

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

3.61 | 491 ratings

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Peter
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars .and then, one fine day some twenty-eight years later, Hammill and company decided to reform Van Der Graaf, and record a new studio album....

Yes, 2005 saw one of prog's most welcome reformations of a classic band: Van Der Graaf Generator were back with a surprisingly strong comeback album in PRESENT, their first new release since 77's THE QUIET ZONE/THE PLEASURE DOME.

As with all albums that vocalist extraordinaire Peter Hammill puts his hand (or gilded throat) to, PRESENT is decidedly not for everyone. VDGG always did make "difficult," often disturbing and sometimes dissonant progressive rock, and this elder version of the band is no exception. This is deep, dark, discomfiting stuff, and (as other reviewers have noted) if you're not already a confirmed VDGG/Hammill fan, you'd best stay away: PRESENT will almost certainly not convert you. Hammill's voice and vocal contortions are as haunting, unnerving and just plain strange as ever, and his lyrics here are among his most bitter and biting. Add to that some truly dangerous, edgy music from Mssrs Banton, Jackson and Evans (fleshed out with some guitar and piano from Hammill), and you'll see that the ol' Generator hasn't mellowed one whit with age.

There's plenty of bang for your prog buck to be had here, including a full second disc of instrumental improvisations which, for me at least, is best taken in small doses. It would be great to see the band do this dark musical magic in a small dimly-lit basement club, no doubt, but for day-to-day listening, Disc 2 would perhaps work best as a late-night sonic backdrop for reading some horror or dark fantasy. Have you read Moorcock's latest Elric novels yet?

The album proper is contained on Disc 1, and standouts include the cynical political commentary of "Every Bloody Emperor," the terrific organ & sax exchanges of "Boleas Panic," and the paranoid perfection that is "Nutter Alert," which finds Hammill almost spitting out his bilious lines as only he can. The potent songs of Disc 1 can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of Van Der Graaf's best classic material. (Speaking of potency, in these days of endless Viagra ads via your email, my favourite line on the cutting "Abandon Ship" is "It was only the medication that was keeping them erect." Ha!)

PRESENT is no masterpiece like PAWN HEARTS, perhaps, but it is still fine Van Der Graaf, and a worthy, convincing comeback. 3.5 stars, rounded up to four, just because these "old" guys can still do it, and do it darned well. Rock on Van Der Graaf - Los Vegas won't be calling anytime soon!

Peter | 4/5 |

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