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Van Der Graaf Generator - A Grounding In Numbers CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

3.44 | 478 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars As other fans have already noted, this is more like a Peter Hammill solo album unfairly elevated under the Van Der Graaf Generator brand name. The distinction may be negligible, since Hammill writes nearly all the group material anyway, but there has always been a subtle yet very real difference between the band and its founding father: Van Der Graaf was always about the music; Hammill's solo work is more about the songs...or something like that.

In either case this is an older, tamer Van Der Graaf Generator, and hard to accept without the signature snarl of David Jackson's saxophone. Nevertheless, there are certainly moments here that conjure a reasonable facsimile of that old, edgy VDG spirit, in songs like "Bunsho" and "Snake Oil", for starters. And the pair of brief, improvised interludes ("Red Baron", "Splink") show that the remaining trio's creative energies might be dormant but aren't yet extinct.

The biggest hurdle might just be in the sequence of tracks. Perhaps unwisely, the album opens with a ballad, and a lackluster one at that ("Your Time Starts Now", a song better suited as an album closer), followed by the utterly indifferent "Mathematics" and the trite rocker "Highly Strung". In baseball parlance that's like hitting into a triple play to start off the first inning, and while the album improves steadily afterward it never recovers from that initial lack of momentum.

"Highly Strung" in particular, with its big '80s beat and over-reliance on guitar heroics, reveals the conspicuous hole left behind by Jackson's departure. Hammill does what he can to fill the gap himself using his electric guitar, an instrument rarely heard in the forefront of the Van Der Graaf sound. But I think he'd be the first to admit his own shortcomings in that department, preferring the relative freedom of an unplugged acoustic singer/songwriter. Where's Rikki Nadir when you need him?

It's true the remaining players seem more like a backup band than a fully integrated group. But it's reassuring to hear them still active and kicking, even if the effort here feels more like the involuntary spasm of a cadaver on the brink of rigor mortis.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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