Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Van der Graaf Generator - Present

8/10

Van der Graaf Generator's first album since the 70's is pretty strong, considering how long it was since they'd performed as a band. Then again, maybe this shouldn't be so surprising, considering how often the other principals had appeared on Hammill's solo albums. This is a two-disc effort, with the first disc consisting of six songs, and the second featuring well over an hour of studio improvisations.
The first disc's highlights include the fiery political "Every Bloody Emperor," about how civil liberties decline as democracies seek empire(I strongly suspect that this song is directed at least as much to Tony Blair as to George W. Bush) and "Abandon Ship," with punkish guitars colliding into Hammond organs in a song about the misery of old age.
The second disc is hard for me to review, because I have a tough time describing improvisatory music. This is one of the two main reasons I'm not reviewing jazz artists on this blog (the other one being that they tend to have insanely huge discographies). However, the pieces on this disc are very interesting and varied, with some typically chaotic and others more sedate, and it makes me surprised that VDGG had only released one 90-second instrumental all the way back on "Aerosol Grey Machine" when they could jam this well. This is definitely one of the better comeback albums, and I highly recommend it.

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