Van der Graaf Generator


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Re-forming no less than 27 years after the band last broke up, Van Der Graaf Generator were never going to put together the usual kind of reunion record. For a start, the reunion itself is largely in the eye of the beholder -- various permutations of the band have played together on a number of occasions over the past three decades, which means that it's their own understanding of what the Van Der Graaf Generator name signifies that dominates this album, rather than any of the motives and moods that normally dictate such affairs. The fact that this understanding dovetails exquisitely with the group's own reputation and legend should not surprise listeners. Messrs. Hammill, Jackson, Banton, and Evans have safeguarded their own chemistry well, and, from the opening swirl of "Every Bloody Emperor," it is clear that the void between "then" and "now" has neither dented nor tarnished the uniqueness of the VDGG sound. It is remarkable that, of all the idols and icons of the '70s whose influence has been spread across the last few years of "new" rock acts, VDGG remain all but untouched by anyone. But it's also true. With all the key ingredients in place -- the dislocation of sax and organ duets, a voice that can travel from zero to banshees in 60 seconds, and percussion that rolls with every punch that is thrown, who else could swing from the low-key loquacity of "On the Beach" to the abrasive swagger of "Abandon Ship!," from the rollicking barrage of "Nutter Alert" to the staccato panic of "In Babelsberg," and then wrap the package up with an entire disc's worth of impromptu improvisations that Evans himself very accurately compared to "being locked in a room with Van Der Graaf Generator." He's right, it is. And, once you remind yourself that their claustrophobia remains one of the most exhilarating sounds in rock history, you'll be throwing the key away yourself. VDGG never made a less than fabulous album in their lives. And they're not about to start now.

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