Peter Hammill

The Future Now

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The Future Now is one of Peter Hammill's best and most disconcerting albums since the mid-'70s. Filled with beautiful piano ballads, strange experiments, and anthemic rock songs, it stands as multi-faceted as the artist -- who, incidentally, shaved half of his facial hair for the eye-catching cover shot. Hammill has never mastered the art of the opening track, and this album marks no exception: "Pushing Thirties" is a bland, surprise-less rock song. Once you pass that gate though, wonders succeed one another in your ears. In the ballad department, "If I Could" shines like a diamond. This beautiful love song about a man who will never be able to keep his wife from leaving would remain a regular feature in Hammill's concerts for the next 25 years, but no later recording matches this studio version. "The Mousetrap (Caught In)" -- the story of an actor performing the same play for the last 30 years -- is another highlight. Unstable fuzz guitar (reminiscent of Robert Fripp, although he is not credited as a guest) give "Trappings" and "Mediaevil" a strange atmosphere, while backward vocals turn "The Cut" into the most sinister song in Hammill's book since "German Overalls." "A Motor-Bike in Africa" combines electronic percussion, studio effects, a mantra-like narrative, and a pinch of English humor to uncertain results. Amidst all these good songs is another gemstone, although it has not been polished yet; "The Future Now" is too lyrical in this incarnation, too tamed and polite, although it still has the power to send shivers down your spine with its imperative chorus. The Future Now is an artist album. It requires dedication but rewards a hundredfold.

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