Friday, April 3, 2009

Van der Graaf Generator - Aerosol Grey Machine

8/10

This wasn't even supposed to be a Van der Graaf Generator album; instead, it was supposed to be a Peter Hammill solo album, but the record company insisted that the album be credited to the band (which had only released one single at the time). As record company decisions go, it wasn't a terrible idea at all. Aerosol Grey Machine, released in 1968, is prog in an embryonic form. It's more drenched in late 60's psychedelia than any of the band's other albums, but it's still good. Hammill plays his acoustic guitar a lot more here than on later VDGG releases, and the saxophone is nowhere to be seen (although some tracks feature a flute). The music also isn't nearly as blatantly dark as the band's later material, although I can't call it happy by any stretch of the imagination; it's a more subdued, introspective form of darkness that you have to look past the hippie 60's sound to see fully. My favorite tracks include "Afterwards," with its great organ line; the hilarious title track, which is a short commercial jingle parody; and the Syd Barrett-esque "Octopus."
Okay, "Necromancer" is just goofy;with its drum opening reminiscent of Holst's "Mars" and fantasy lyrics, it almost sounds like a Spinal Tap song minus the guitars. but that's the only real misstep, unless you count "Firebrand," a bonus track which was the B-side of the band's first single, "People You Were Going To." Firebrand features Hammill sharing lead vocals with Chris Judge Smith; his voice is terrible and his delivery is just beyond awful in its over-the-topness (while the A-side was a pleasant but lightweight psych-pop song). Neither song was on the original LP, but they were added to the end of my CD copy. I might have lowered my grade a point due to Firebrand, but I don't take bonus tracks into account for my grades.

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