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Peter Hammill

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3.51 | 252 ratings | 15 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Pushing Thirty (4:18)
2. The Second Hand (3:27)
3. Trappings (3:29)
4. The Mousetrap (Caught In) (4:04)
5. Energy Vampires (2:54)
6. If I Could (4:35)
7. The Future Now (4:11)
8. Still in the Dark (3:37)
9. Mediaevil (3:05)
10. A Motor-Bike in Africa (3:09)
11. The Cut (4:20)
12. Palinurus (Castaway) (3:44)

Total Time 44:53

Bonus tracks on 2006 Virgin remaster:
13. If I Could (live) (4:36) *
14. The Mousetrap (Caught In) (live) (4:05) *

* Recorded at the All Souls Unitarian Church, Kansas City, on February 16, 1978

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Hammill / vocals, guitar, keyboards (baby grand piano, monophonic analogue synth), harmonium, Aphex Aural Exciter (6,11), Roland beatbox, bass, harmonica (12), producer & arranger

- Graham Smith / violin (5,6)
- David Jackson / saxophone (1,2)

Releases information

Artwork: Barney Bubbles with Brian Griffin (photo)

LP Charisma - CAS 1137 (1978, UK)

CD Virgin - CASCD 1137 (1989, UK)
CD Virgin - CASCDR 1137 (2006, Europe) Remastered by Peter Hammill

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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PETER HAMMILL The Future Now ratings distribution

(252 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

PETER HAMMILL The Future Now reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars After the emotional turmoil that busted out in the deeply personal album "Over", Hammill decided to re-expand his field of lyrical interests for his following effort "The Future Now". Besides the introspective intentions in the romantic lament exposed in the beautiful acoustic ballad 'If I Could' and the confession of midlife crisis explicated in 'Mousetrap', the thing is that Hammill is generally concerned about more global stuff, such as the fate of humankind (the title track and 'Mediaevil'), the racial apartheid in South Africa ('A Motorbike in Afrika'), the limitations of human knowledge ('Still in the Dark'), the dark side of success ('Trappings' and 'Energy Vampires'), and eventually, the tensions inherent to the process of musical creation and production (the last two tracks). This openness in the lyrical aspect is properly parallel to the sonic sources that Hammill is employing here: synth layers, sound effects, a considerable amount of bizarre reconstructions and deconstructions designed in the mixing console in order to create an amazing feedback with the instrumentation. It is also clear that Hammill was well aware of the (then) new directions that were beginning to get noticeable in the late 70s pop scene, as the first two numbers unabashedly show. 'Pushing Thirty' is a refurbished old fashioned rock'n'roll track with a new-waveish twist: the piano and guitar parts laid on the programmed rhythm pattern and hand clapping serves to convey Peter's enduring optimism while facing that dreaded forthcoming 30th birthday. Sure our friend Peter can still be Nadir, as some of the remaining tracks will show, but before all that, 'The Second Hand' insists on the subject of the unstoppable passage of the years, this time in a not so optimistic mood, but with irony and resignation: yet this is not supposed to be a depressive thing, since the rhythm pattern (again) sets a funny R'n'B path and gives a new-waveish air to the song. The first signals of sheer musical disturbance are incarnated in the delirious violin lines of 'Energy Vampires', which are deliciously combined with the electric guitar multi-layers. But it isn't until the second half of the album that the avant-garde genius shines with impressive brightness. The title track is a furious critical look at our contemporary look: Hammill's red hot singing suits perfectly well the urgent claims spat out in the lyrics, while the piano sounds majestic and the lead guitar explores its own roads all along. 'Still in the Dark' turns things down a notch in order to focus on the feeling of confusion that comes from the awareness of one's own ignorance: no Socratic optimism here, but a declaration of unconditional surrender of the skeptical philosopher. Things get still more somber in 'Mediaevil': Hammill delivers his criticism of modern social structure as a kind of reiteration of the Middle Ages ancient regime, while a Gothic chorus struggles to flood all over the place with its oppressive wall of sound. Enough of challenging intelligence and intensity? Not at all! 'A Motorbike in Afrika' is one of the most outstanding anti-songs ever created by the human mind!! Peter delivers his critical portrait of the apartheid in a tribal ambience: his recitations, the background chorale, the electronic effects, all of them build an amazing sonic picture of the jungle, the motorbike that goes around and around, the everyday frenzy in a fractured society - all of these elements ordained to exorcise the ever present ghosts of institutionalized racial discrimination. No real shouting here, but the humanitarian's anger is there, palpable, unhidden. 'The Cut' and 'Palinurus' complete the air of undeterred weirdness with its constant twists: Hammill allowed the engineering process to become part of the performing, and by doing so, laid the foundations for a most fruitful dialectics between the musician and the electronic devices. Although more experimental than proggy per se, "The Future Now" stands out as an avant-garde rock gem that fits suitable for any bold prog lover's collection.
Review by Fishy
3 stars This sounds very uneven, a perfect example of a transitional album. The album was released after the demise of VDGG but don't let that be your guide as the album is clearly a product of its time. Only "Pushing thirty" has some VDGG leanings due to the sax parts of David Jackson. Once again, strong emotions have been translated into excellent melodies. "The second hand" is quite a mysterious sounding track which includes an appealing bass line. Good one. "Trapping", "The mousetrap" and the wonderful "If I could" are very emotional and more or less what you could expect of him. Especially "If I could" must have been a leftover from "Over". The lyric and the folkish elements seem to refer directly to that album. Unfortunately, on other tracks there's too much experimentation. Tough the idea for the lyric of "A motor bike in Africa" may be a good way to react to the racist politics in South Africa of the seventies, musically it is quite weird. Not much of a song really, only a computer kind of rhythm with Hammill's voice on top of that lacking any substantial melody line. The tale of this album clearly is the most experimental. "The Cut" is another weird track but it does contain a good melody. The end of the track nicely flows into "Palinurus" which is based on a piano riddle and some wonderful vocal melodies. Here the weirdness is preserved for the arrangements which I don't mind at all as it works quite well. One thing's for sure, if Hammill wanted a new direction after "Over" he couldn't have done it better. On this site PH is listed under the symphonic prog flag but this album couldn't possibly by be less symphonic, the only sign of prog are the vocal harmonies of "Medieaval" which show some resemblance with Gregorian music. As a rock album it is an interesting, intriguing album. Some tracks do belong to the best material the man's ever done but on some tracks the electronic sounds seem to come close in spoiling the excellent melodies. On the lyrical side Hammill takes his views on interesting social issues instead of the introspective themes that dominated previous albums.

In 1978 this album sets the scene for a series of records that would follow. Hammill explores new electronic sounds and rhythms in the arrangements of compact pop songs. While several trademarks of the past are still present, the long epics seem to have gone for good. The arrangements have more in common with the Berlin period of David Bowie than VDGG or his earlier solo work. Prog purists better listen to other PH releases but those who are also interested in good song writing combined with electronic arrangements will like this one also. These bands this can't be called commercial in any way as Hammill integrates the new influences in his music in his own unique manner. Although this may have shocked many fans in 1978, taking his whole carreer in consideration, this really is vintage Peter Hammill as his ability to write inspired melodies is still there. Hammill adapted his sound to the trends of the end of the seventies. Maybe that's the reason why the album was named "the future now" and maybe he was right. I don't think it sounds outdated when hearing this today.

Review by slipperman
3 stars 'The Future Now' is a real mixed-bag, coming at a time when Peter Hammill was freshly free of Van Der Graff Generator for, literally, decades to come.

The album starts with some discomfort, tuneless talk-singing leading "Pushing Thirty", "The Second Hand" and "Trappings" (the first two sounding like hangovers from 'Nadir's Big Chance'). But then things get a bit odd. "The Mousetrap (Caught In)" is built on an emotional, quiet, introspective vocal line, but the keyboard sounds zooming in and around it are rather unsettling and counter the gorgeous vocals well. This segues into the frantic, paranoid and cynical "Energy Vampires", with some nails- on-chalkboard violin from Graham Smith under an edgy, hyper bass line.

The rest of the album volleys between stark, emotionally heavy balladeering ("If I Could", "Still In The Dark"), engaging openness and honesty ("The Future Now", "Palinurus (Castaway)") and utterly strange experimental songs ("A Motor-bike In Afrika", "Mediaeval", "The Cut"). Clearly an album with plenty of depth, but not all the songs impress. I find the more experimental tracks the most interesting and compelling. Certainly one for all Hammill fans, there's enough good stuff to warrant a purchase, but I would never suggest the curious Hammill newcomer start here. It's just too erratic, and only the most initiated P.H. fans will get it right away.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

This first album after VdGG's final break-up is certainly not the easiest of Hammill's album to say the least. As the opening track says, Peter was on the verge of the big three O's and obviously the man had a lot to say or at least to try to express his thoughts. Can one ever speak of any Hammill albums and say that it is transitional? Not really as Hammill's whole career always seemed transitional, but if one album had to be it, this might be the one.

Peter plays nearly all of the instruments himself except for the odd violin and sax, and this could the album that is truly his most personal. Most of the tracks on this album appears to deal with life's uncertainties or shortcomings, and this angst (check out his photo on the sleeve to get confirmation) sometimes translates into his music as the eerie Caught In The Mousetrap indicates or the Energy Vampires (clearly the industry vultures).

There are true moments of wonder as Mediaeval is one of Hammill's more bizarre adventures mixing chorals with his bizarre (and almost yelled) prose and the following Motorbike In Africa and The Cut. The average proghead will no doubt really get the feeling that Peter is taking us through the meanders of his sanity and we are not sure if he is headed in or out of the danger zone. The finale Palinurus is probably the tops Hammill has ever gone in weirdness. There are many moments when Hammill's intimacy on this album becomes a bit uncomfortable, not because his proximity or his prose, but mostly because of the purpose or more likely the interest or usefulness. Do not get me wrong, this is typically the type of albums that will unravel its secrets and intricacies as time goes on and repeated listenings (IF you can stand them) go by. For my part, I doubt that the extra time spent on this album will rewarding enough to warrant the investment - both in time and money. But this album (or at least its second (vinyl) side is certainly a must hear at least once for everyone hanging out on the Archives.

I could be tempted to award the album a fourth star just out of its adventurous end, but I cannot bring myself to actually enjoy this album more than a third star. If you can get my drift, because I am not so sure I do myself, after such a weird 40 mins. If listened to properly, no-one gets out intact after the needle lifts from the wax.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars "All the writers watch each other for the way to go, follow each other like lemmings"

Released in 1978, "The future now" finds Hammill realising that he really is now a solo artist. At the same time, he was reaching one of life's milestones, as evidenced by the title of the opening song "Pushing thirty". For those of us including Hammill, who are now somewhat older than that, it is amazing to look back and remember how aged that seemed at the time! By this time, prog was becoming something of a dirty word and Hammill appears to have been conscious of the changing attitudes. Hence he attempts, to some extent, to move with the times.

The lyrics of "Pushing thirty" tell us a lot about Hammill's mind set.

All the writers watch each other for the way to go, follow each other like lemmings - swear they're all waiting for Nicky Lowe to turn out like David Hemmings... Me, I'm pushing thirty and the steady zone, perhaps I should retire, but even if it all deserts me and I'm left alone, I still know that I'm fuelled by fire.

While Hammill is trying his best to sound 100% positive, the underlying message is one of vulnerability and insecurity. The song itself is has a new wave style, with semi spoken vocals and a frantic rhythm.

"The second hand" could almost be a David Bowie song, the vocal style and intermittent sax being understated. Whether "The trappings of success" is autobiographical, or directed at an unnamed celebrity is unclear. It tells the tale of a commercially successful musician who has sold his soul. The track is simple in structure based on acoustic guitar and vocal, but the arrangement it messy and unsatisfactory.

"The mousetrap" sees Hammill once again reflecting on his age, but this time in a more depressive and, probably from his point of view, more realistic way. When I began I had my hopes, believed that I could be a leading light of the stage, but now I've stunned myself to silence, exhausted all my inner rage

It is harrowing to listen to such a young man feeling so old. The song is delivered as a fairly orthodox Hammill ballad, with his emotional singing style which he does not exploit as often as he should.

"Energy vampires" is even more cynical, being a blatant attack on elements of his fan base. Lyrics such "I've got every one of your records, man, doesn't that mean I own you?" show the kind of stress which ultimately led Roger Waters to write "The wall". "If I could" indicates that the problems Hammill was addressing were not all music related, the song being a very personal eulogy for the end of a relationship. Once again, the song is delivered in reflective, ballad fashion.

As if Hammill did not have enough problems of his own, the title track finds him trying to put the world to rights. He accompanies himself on piano as he addresses the evils of bigotry, discrimination, etc; his anger being palpable in his voice. The following tracks "Still in the dark", "Mediaevil" (sic) and "A Motor-bike in Afrika" continue the rant against the establishment in a largely similar style. "Mediaevil" has a cod choral arrangement reflecting the religious focus of the song. "A Motor-bike in Afrika" is an odd track though, the rhythm track consisting entirely of an idling motor bike engine, while Hammill chants over it.

"The cut" is a sort of odd man out track, in that the message is obscure, the song's lyrics being based in the recording studio. Unfortunately, as is common throughout the album, Hammill appears to have forgotten to add any sort of melody to the song. The closing "Palinurus (Castaway)" finds Hammill back in self pitying mode, as he observes "one moment prince of the ocean and the next upon the raft". Fortunately, the delivery reverts to his ballad singer mode, making for a pleasing end to the album.

"The future now" is a very intimate album, which finds Hammill not just wearing his heart on his sleeve, but holding it aloft for public examination. It betrays the emotional stresses he was gong through in various aspects of his life. From a musical perspective, while there are some touching ballads, the melodies appear to take second place to the lyrics throughout. It is difficult to recommend the album to anyone other than devoted fans of Hammill.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars The hide-and-seek play is still going on. Exit Potter and Evans, welcome back Jackson. Still, a bit of a drummer would have been welcome (IMHHO).

This period was a difficult one for Hammill and the band. As he said, the live album "Vital" was . vital for their future inclusion on the Charisma label, while even if as a solo artist no short-term threats were announced.

The tortured Hammill featured on the cover of this album, could have been an indication on its content. When "Over" expressed Peter's distress after his divorce, during "The Future Now" he is more dealing with third parties; although his personal implication is very much present.

Some attacks on the show-biz during "Pushing Thirty", average pessimism (or moderate optimism) in "The Second Hand", a warning sign for the short-lived glory of a rising star-life through "Trappings".

The first emotional moment is "The Mousetrap". The first melodic song of this album, not meaning that one is laughing his head off while listening to this number, but it is one of the most accessible (along with "If I Could") in the midst of some cacophony to come under the form of "Energy Vampires". The poorest one here IMO.

"Still In The Dark" is the last real song of this album IMO. Another delicate Hammill performance.

According Peter himself, the next three songs were more experimentations, I quote: "All came from sheer messing about with tapes and sounds, the songs themselves having to be found out of the assembled noise". I can only say that I don't like these assembled noises.

This album is my least favourite from Peter's repertoire so far. Two stars.

Review by TGM: Orb
3 stars The Future Now, Peter Hammill, 1978

StarStarStar (Star)


The Future Now is maybe a moment in Peter Hammill's career when that improvisational edge is lost (only for a moment and only in part and only maybe... it's rather that the improvisation is expressed in ways other than the vocals... though vocal material from the same year by him is as out there as anything); every song seems clearly thought out, down to the vocal, down to the guest soloists' tone, and there are no vestiges of the hell-raising Van Der Graaf Generator compositions or the quaintly philosophical acoustic pieces here. Everything is direct. The lyrics, for one, are angry; with critics, musicians, the music business, fans, the world, politicians, apartheid, religion, science and himself. Unremitting, recalcitrant anger underpins a lot of seemingly careless songs and this undercurrent gives a unique edge to the album which makes up for occasionally cheap imagery and much blunter comparisons.

Musically, it's not consistent in quality, neither over the album itself, nor over various listens... one time I'll find myself enraptured in the mocking imagery of something like Energy Vampires, the next I'll wonder why I'm listening to it. I think, most of the time, everything from If I Could onwards is strong to stunning, and that's also where the most bizarre material seems to be concentrated. Hammill's instrumental talents extent to a newly independent bass, guitar (both acoustic and electric) and more extensively orchestrated synthesiser, with a piano thrown in once or twice... I think the drums are programmed rather than played, but they're not especially common anyway. Guest performances from David Jaxon and Graham Smith (especially) offer strong confident contrast to this songwriter's effort, and you have another element of contrast between the two broad categories of song -artistically embellished songs and songfully embellished art tracks. Lastly, a word for the vocals; the new thing about them seems to be both a masterfully captured resigned tone in a few of the songs as well as a much expanded range of mass and harmonised vocals; there's also a general trend of deeper and more real vocals. Less acrobatics and drama, more backbone; it's a trade-off, certainly, and it threw me at first, but once you get into this new voice, it is as beautiful and individual as the old one (and, for the sake of completeness, some live pieces from '78 on the unofficially released Skeletons of Songs bootleg have the best vocals I have ever heard... it's not that he can't pull off those unrestrained dramatic pieces, but rather that he's trying something new for the new studio material).

The near-casual rocker Pushing Thirty fits on a border between smugness and mockery so casually and cleverly that that alone is almost winning. Big thick bass and jagged odd-sounding guitars with a sort of jumpy piano are the focus, while the caricaturing vocal is followed by a strained Jaxon sax sound and a laidback drum part. All in all, clever lyrics and an interesting mood redeem a slightly disappointing opener. And I don't particularly like that sax sound... I really get the sleazy vibe I think it's going for, but that doesn't quite make me like it. The defiance, the fun and the satire all come across superbly, but I don't think it does justice to the album that follows it. As always, with this album, it's an impression over two or three particular listens -on others it's been good, exceptional, flaccid and adequate.

The finger of The Second Hand is now pointed firmly at rock musicians, and with a much better Jaxon performance gracing it, the tone being a little more graceful and with a lot more intricacy and contrast. A drum pattern, basic yet oddly appropriate and occasionally varied, underpins it. The downcast, non-prominent acoustic is supported by a more prioritised bass and some non-commital e-bow or synthesiser work. The instrumentation feels more like a detail than a key element, and other than Jaxon, all the attraction is Hammill's sort of spoken-sung vocal, with a quiet brain-bleeding-out-slowly vibe and alternating neglect and concern. Very hard to express or examine, but when it gets through, it does work its way in. The lyrics are a double-edged sword, with metaphor occasionally falling flat and occasionally augmenting the piece, but other than that slight slip, it isn't a take I've seen elsewhere before and the direct statement is superb. Another piece that isn't really remarkable in its own right, but it's interesting enough not to drag the album down. Note that when I first tried to write the review for this one, I was very complimentary of it -the album has different things for different moods, it just doesn't often all come together at the right time.

Trappings is a marked step-up, in my view, with some incredible shrill, disappearing and distorted mob vocals contrasting a flat and snide basic vocal and its companions, more floral and low, all fitting together into one really unique overall voice. Well, the vocals are one of the real highlights. The lyrics (four legs good, music biz bad) are also a step up, not because the words on paper are of themselves stunning, but because they fit the music and the vocal stylings perfectly... lines like 'he's a prisoner, in a gilded cage' or 'he's a man of the people, as long as the people don't talk back!' work not only because they're basically good, but because they're delivered cohesively and with an entertainment value that doesn't detract from the basic point of the song. And the instrumentation has also pulled together; all the pieces feel like they're needed... the gradually cohering acoustic with a neat melody, the snarling electric (and a great individual tone... yes, Hammill's not the cleanest electric guitarist, but by Over and certainly by The Future Now, he can express himself on electrics better than most), decorative piano, and most of all an immediate and punctuating bass part with a brief solo... it's all one song with a top notch bit of arranging and it succeeds in the way that both the previous two didn't.

And Mousetrap (Caught In) doesn't let up on this; if anything, it's even better arranged, with that gorgeously ethereal operatic-sounding synth, a very clean piano base with perfectly measured lines, ghostly echo coming off it, and a stronger ARP that contrasts and compliments those piano melodies. And the lyrics, now introspective, are Hammill in his element. Emotional, direct and individual (admittedly, 'all the world's a stage' is not new -but there's certainly a direct meaning and interpretation of that which another song using that idea hasn't quite got. 'Every time... that I go to turn the pages of the calendar, I can see that I'm not really going anywhere.' That hits home (even if I'm still young enough not to deserve the right to think that yet). The vocals are just perfect here... clean, with a mood developing through the song, and achieving an emotionally overwrought state through very neat vibrato, attention to detail and a strong melody... the live recordings I've heard are darker, more aggressive and barer, and both angles fit the content and the idea so strongly that it's difficult to choose between them. This might catch it, if only for the tasteful synthesiser. From strength to strength.

Energy Vampires was something I loathed at first. Weird sounds, all over the place, comic vocal parts, ridiculous lyrics ('excuse me while I suck your blood, excuse me when I phone you, I got every one of your records, man, doesn't that mean that I own you?' -I mean, I kind of like the overall sound, but the content is both serious and ludicrous at the same time and it initially makes for very odd listening'). However, I've gotten over that, and the main riff, acoustic with a reverb detailed echoey contrast floating into a thudding bass is just fantastic. The song also includes an astounding high-pace performance with some incredible yodelling solos from Graham Smith (who coined the title, coincidentally), who contributes some amazingly beautiful, haunting sounds in an incredibly versatile moment in the middle of the song and also a substantiation of the basic theme with a thicker violin sound. Musically, one of my favourite pieces on the album. Lyrically, I've now got to the point of happily ignoring most of it. Vocally, again, very good, with more of the mass vocals and one astoundingly vulnerable lonely outcry contrasts all the previous mockery and multiple-part deadpan delivery. Coincidentally¸ this song's bass work appears to me sort of as a forerunner for later bass-heavy songs like Last Frame, and yet I have altogether no idea what to make of it. The violin performance is killer, though, and any fan of progressive violin work would be crazy to miss this one.

If I Could is one of those songs that stands out for its sincerity as much as its content; the simple plea and explanation is its own declaration, and though everything else is wonderful, it's this idea that carries it. A gorgeous, sliding Graham Smith violin adds exoticism and bearing to a wonderful-sounding acoustic part (the production as much as the part is very enjoyable). Another clean vocal and another set of mass choral harmonies, this time mostly in a low to mid register, making the higher vocal harmonies and the incredible sustained notes at the end even more intense... various live attempts to substitute for that harmonic attack are always interesting, but can't quite match the way the original just works. One of those songs I can't really judge or criticise, and I wouldn't want to, even if I could.

The Future Now is the second absolutely solo piece, a riveting anthem with a majestic guitar over a dignified piano (at one point it feels like it's taking the sort of role you'd expect from Tubular Bells), clustered synths offering a sort of hymnal significance to a roaring protest song. An incredibly pretty piano and an incredibly edgy guitar come together to make a dark interlude, a screaming, stabbing guitar and bass emphasise the vocal break, gorgeous choral vocal harmonies back significant parts of the song. I mean, Hammill himself has said that this is the sort of sound he was aiming for and even if it takes a while to sink in, this is not a cheap pop song, it is serious business and when it sinks in it is just about perfect. And that's just the music and production: the vocals, equally grand, but with a hint of underlying darkness, roaring and confident and intense, no holds barred, hitting indignance and aspiration with no excess or embellishment. It's exact but has a spontaneous edge and it works perfectly. And the lyrics: 'O blind, blinded, blinding hatred of sex, race, religion, colour, country and creed They scream from the pages of everything I read You just bring me oppression and torture, apartheid, corruption and plague You just bring me the rape of the planet and joke world rights at the Hague' I mean, how many 'prog' songs are this direct, meaningful and real? For all the pretension Hammill's poetry is occasionally accused of, it's hard to argue that he didn't have ideas. All in all, The Future Now is a song I completely didn't musically understand at first (though the solid version with The K Group on The Margin was much easier to appreciate) but with a little thought and time to adjust I've grown to appreciate its power. Great electrics, coincidentally.

Still In The Dark is perhaps par for the course, nothing awkward or abject, but really, other than the insightful and individual lyric and an expressive vocal, it doesn't excel. A piano song, the piano filling the breaks in the voice as much as the reverse. Additional e-bow and synthesiser offer an instrumental and sonic originality to a piece that is compositionally accomplished but not compositionally thrilling. The message:

And if that fairly conventional number seems at the time of its arrival as a sort of representation of the things the second side is going for, this is turned on its head as dramatically as possible. Mediaevil cuts in, with the angry choirboy's revenge (not my phrase *click. Click. Click... the sound of the search function*... thanks to Refugee for that one). The mass harmonies are now shrill, mocking, and sarcastically Gregorian (well, perhaps not exactly but it captures that mood), encircling a lone, bitter and stabbing lead vocal. The lyrics take a surprising double twist from a very sharp, if rather normal (compared to things like Still Life or Gog) mockery of organised religion and embezzlement with a medieval backdrop and texture, and then it moves on bitingly to the media with the same destructive glare: technology glorified, sex devalued, individuality still suppressed by mass deception, nuclear weapons prolific... the message, that we need to wake up and do something about it is powerful and direct, and there is a real originality to the comparison (well, perhaps the comparison is not entirely new... and I've seen and read similar things; but I haven't heard that sort of comparison conveyed as a lyric... it's just not done) and the musical style (it's mock-medieval, but with as unmedieval a lead vocal as you can get and some brilliantly warped harmony choruses). A real message, managed intelligently, enjoyably and artistically: is there anything else a song needs to do?

And those who are strange Are still locked in asylums And a sterile pope proscribes the pill And those who are rich Are still getting richer And those who are poor still foot the bill

(lyrics moment here... seems true as ever today)

A Motor-Bike In Africa is even stranger. A rhythmic mess, with a roaring motorbike doubling as thick layers of tribal percussion (such a clever rhythm), an increasing layering of twisted production, percussion, vocals and harmony vocals under a low and menacing lead voice. Again, meaningful lyrics: just because you're messing around with sound, you don't need to sing about Sun Gods to make it work... this time attacking apartheid and colonialism. Another aspect of Hammill's originality... like the later work of Peter Gabriel, though even more eclectically, he's able to move into relatively type-cast genres in a fashion other artists wouldn't think of... move to World Prog?

The Cut is a song that is nothing like a song. I don't think I've got much more to say. There's a melody underlying the vocals, which are intentionally disinterested. There's an acoustic part, guitar 'soloing' (really, it's working with the sounds guitars can produce. On the other hand, the melodies cut off and jump around unexpectedly, the sounds vary maddeningly and a conclusion meets with a completely noise-based reopening that seems somehow to continue the song. Truly crazy but it does work brilliantly before it segues into Palinurus, creating a sort of weird kinship between the two.

Palinurus is another song that does manage to resemble a song most of the time. A sonic whirr is met by a longing harmonica (also Hammill, and perfect for its content) and a smooth piano melody with matching accents and counterpointing synth whirrs. The vocal and the lyrics, despite the reference to the Aeneid (overrated commercial dross; the synth-pop of the Augustus' time), are some of the most passionate and disarming on the album, with a full demonstration of Hammill's range. The essential four components of the song: synth, piano, harmonica, voice fit together so well and neatly that at the first listen you almost don't notice it. Another triumph, and a great note to end on.

Completely solo takes of If I Could and The Mousetrap (Caught In) from the Skeletons of Songs bootleg more than match up to the studio material (I think they, though different from the studio material, benefit more by not needing comparison with it), with an incredible passion in the vocals, some of Hammill's unique grating growl and strong, clear vibrato. The stripped back versions also really display of just how pretty those acoustic and piano parts are and the basic strength of the lyrics sung. These stripped down versions reveal a lot about the songs and offer an emotion and vocal variety that is simply astonishing. A real bonus addition, though slightly incongruous with the end of the album proper.

Obviously, I speak from the point of view of an enthusiast. I've got about twenty of his albums (including live ones), I've heard bootleg and live material, I'm kicking myself for missing the VDGG tour early this year. Consequently, it's somewhat difficult for me to say how essential a disc like this is... people who aren't fans of the earlier and more accessibly extreme solo efforts possibly won't understand this, and even I don't particularly like the first two tracks. A strong solo effort that is a worthwhile purchase for any serious progressive rock fan (how many good, well-known and clearly progressive albums are kicking around in '78 anyway?) and one of the more obvious directions for the Hammill fan to branch out in. Two top notch violin performances add another area of specialist interest, as does the use of production as a real tool in its own right. Rating is consequently a bit of a problem: I'm offering a complimentary three star in the same way as I did to the excellent Nadir's Big Chance -I might enjoy these two more than a number of acknowledged classics which I've possibly rated higher, but the appeal is maybe not one for the site in general and there are some weaknesses on both which are just about enough to bring the albums down a notch.

I stress again, despite a 'low' rating, this is thoroughly worth getting.

Favourite Track: ask me four weeks ago and I'd have had a decisive candidate on any given listen... now, say, maybe The Future Now, If I Could or The Mousetrap (Caught In). It's just not one of those albums with just one song I think 'this is it!' to... there are four or five with very different merits, and choosing one isn't something I'd do. A nod to the Skeletons of Songs take of Mousetrap as well... just incredible.

Rating: three stars on the 'hesitate downwards' rule... four for the general Hammill fan and me personally. Would probably have been four if I didn't want to recommend another fifteen Hammill albums highly as well, so some sort of discrimination is probably worth trying. An 11/15 seems about right.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hammill's previous 2 solo albums were harsh and bleak statements that alienated many fans that were solely dedicated to the symphonic side of prog. With The Future Now he shed what little that remained of that fanbase and launched himself into the 6 most defining years of his solo career.

While my heart and sentiment will forever be with The Silent Corner, Hammill's albums from the 1978-1983 period are actually his most innovative and mature works. They are recommendable to any lover of rock music. However, for people that define progressive by pure formal features (such as song length, theme progression, time-signatures etc), the leanings toward art rock and new wave will probably be too distracting.

This album is a logical continuation of In Camera though. But the experiments are more functional, less excessive and a lot more effective. With songs like Pushing Thirty and The Second Hand he's actually not too far from what David Bowie and John Cale were doing at the time, but the sharp bite of Hammill's vocals give this an extra dimension for me. The most alluring aspect of the album is its huge diversity. Frenzied experimental pieces like Trappings and Energy Vampires balance against emotional ballads such as The Moustrap and If I could. The first 6 songs (side A of the original LP) are just perfect and deserve 5 stars by themselves.

The second side is maybe a bit less consistent. The very emotive The Future Now and the haunting Mediaevil are classic pieces where Hammill spews his thoughts on contemporary matters. Yes, this is music with passion! Still In The Dark is a little balladry rest point. A Motor-Bike in Afrika can be seen as rather self-indulgent or as just a bit of fun. The Cut and Palinarus are very impressive again, emotive and dramatic, innovative and original. Sure, this music sits closer to the experimental side of Bauhaus and Siouxsie then to Close to The Edge. So what?

Together with Robert Fripp and Peter Gabriel, Hammill is one of the few artists from the classic prog area that did not turn progressive rock into a stale and formulaic affair that was derived of any creativity. Instead he stayed true to his ever developing artistic vision and continued to push the boundaries of rock with his passion, originality and excellent song writing skills. Hats off. Essential piece of music.

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars A good slice of Peter Hammill.

The Future Now is an interesting release. It covers many aspects of Hammill's solos career, sparse ballad-esque type songs, experimental excursions, more "traditional" type of songs, thought provoking lyrics, and that certain Hammill sound, that is fairly present throughout his solo career, especially at this point in it. In some ways, it is very successful, and in others, it's a bit lacking. First and foremost, I must say, go for the recent 2006 remaster. While I couldn't buy a copy in time, I have the previous CD release and the sound quality is one of the worst from any time in music. The other remasters of that series sound quite good, especially comparatively, thus I imagine it is the same with The Future Now.

Unfortunately, this album is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some absolutely fantastic songs, like the emotional If I Could, the well written and mysterious Energy Vampires, the strange vocal onslaughts of Mediaeval, the powerful title track, and the experimental A Motor Bike In Afrika. However, this is balanced out with the average Pushing Thirty, the unremarkable Still In The Dark, and rather plain The Second Hand (though with some enjoyable Sax work). The other tracks all fall somewhere in between, not reaching the highs of the best of the album, but more interesting than the valleys. (The Mousetrap (Caught In) is probably the best of this bunch.) The music is very much quintessential Hammill. Lots of piano and keyboard (and/or guitar) setting the base for his wonderful voice, and still plenty of variety/quirkiness to provide that little something extra that makes it unique, or at least stand out in the crowd.

All in all, this is a solid release. Some moments of excellence, some poor excursions. However, still a worthy addition to any prog collection, and an essential one in a Peter Hammill collection. I don't think I'd put this in the top 5 Hammill discs, but that's more of a statement on the strength of his solo career as a whole. I'll rate this three stars, but in truth its probably closer to 3.5. I wouldn't start here, but for established fans there should be plenty to like.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars Peter Hammil's first post Van Der Graaf Generator solo album has him bouncing all over the place trying to find a style. Playing most of the instruments himself, with only David Jackson on sax and Ghaham Smith on violin, Hammill tries out straight ahead (for him) rock, ballads, and a number of experimental tracks. Individually, most of the tracks work. But as an album, the melange gives the album a broken feel.

Of course, my favorite tracks are the most experimental, so I tend to listen more intently to Energy Vampires and Meiaevil. Jackson and Smith's contributions do give this a bit of a VDGG feel. And Hammill's occasional drum playing keeps the album from getting too pastoral.

Not bad, but I think Hammill hit his post VDGG stride on the next album, "PH7".

Review by Warthur
4 stars Hammill's first solo album after the second breakup of VdGG has plenty of precedent in his work, thematically speaking - Hammill experimented with minimalistic, stripped-down arrangements on Chameleon In the Shadow of the Night, and presenting a mix of tender love songs and harsh critiques of music industry politics and fashions makes the album something of a sequel to Nadir's Big Chance. (Hammill even angrily declares that he can "still be Nadir" on Pushing Thirty).

However, the collapse of VdGG seems to have left Hammill in a state of great uncertainty, concerned that he's hit a point where he's no longer able to adapt to changing fashions and is no longer relevant. In retrospect, of course, he needn't have worried - his solo career would go from strength to strength, and an enthusiastic endorsement from John Lydon (AKA Johnny Rotten) would help Hammill establish some New Wave credibility.

And of course, Hammill's perpetual tinkering with musical ideas continues unabated here. Backed up with occasional guest appearance from fellow VdGG survivors Graham Smith and David Jackson, Hammill explores minimalistic New Wave art rock avenues in styles ranging from the punkish Pushing Thirty to the starkly experimental A Motorbike In Africa. Not the easiest Hammill solo album to get along with, The Future Now is still an important landmark in the development of his career, setting a precedent for much of his work for the next five years or so.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Something turns on in the brain when faced with the right stimulus...and when a note sounds that seems to "misfit", an alert takes us back from any lethargy in which we might be immersed, it is the door to another way of feeling, less linear if If you like, something like that happens to me with ... (read more)

Report this review (#2951109) | Posted by Fercandio46 | Thursday, September 14, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I really like this album. It has the term 'solo artist' taken to the extreme meaning and a passionate delivery of material regarding both universal and personal themes. I think Hammill writes much better songs when he's addressing feelings of his own rather than general concern, because when he d ... (read more)

Report this review (#455355) | Posted by JackFloyd | Tuesday, May 31, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Peter Hammill "The Future Now" shows an artist who just no needs companies to express the true intentions of what want to describe, and in this album shows it. "Pushing Thirty" is a great happy song, that suddenly falls down to merge in "The Second Hand" an urgent electro-experimental song, with t ... (read more)

Report this review (#232396) | Posted by Diego I | Wednesday, August 19, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This, for me, is the ultimate masterpiece of a career that contains many. Mousetrap, a song unfrequently performed live, one of the greatest gems of this artist. He plays with technology and the results are totaly 'hammill': claustrophibic, spectral, passionate. He talks intelligently about soci ... (read more)

Report this review (#173188) | Posted by aprusso | Saturday, June 7, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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