Wednesday 8 May 2013

The Early Music of Van Der Graaf Generator

Ahead of their show at The Barbican, I've embarked on a listen through all of the Van Der Graaf back-catalogue.

I haven't yet reached their greatest works (Pawn Hearts, Godbluff, Still Life) but even this far in, it has been an extraordinary musical journey.

It must be 30 years since I first heard Refugees, and I still find it to be an astonishingly beautiful song. House With No Door is almost as gorgeous. Of course, alongside these two languid songs there are tracks with furious riffing and brutal power. Sometimes these can be a challenging listen, but even at their most difficult, Van Der Graaf always had great melodies (a good example being After the Flood where, amongst all the doom and gloom that the band could muster, there are still many sing-out-loud moments .)     

My favourite of these early songs is Lost, an epic song about a failed relationship ('I know we'll never dance like we used to') where the band achieve the perfect combination of complex and challenging music alongside glorious anthemic passages.

Pawn Hearts is next on my listening list. I can't wait to hear it again.


Ernest said...

Agreed. An acquired taste for sure, but truly awe-inspiring creativity/musicianship/song-craft/lyrics. One of the best.

Unknown said...

A great band. One of the greatest joys for me is the way they resolve those challenging sections (or "racket" as my wife puts it) and return to more peaceful progress. Hugh Banton is much underrated as a musician perhaps because he doesn't "fly across the keys" like some players. But for my money his organ sound is fabulous and what he plays is so perfectly suited to the songs and more complicated than it may seem on the face of it. Plus live with keys and bass pedals he is a joy to watch.

Anonymous said...

Hope you finished going through VdGG catalogue by now :-)

There are also Peter Hammill's solo works, some of which are VdGG in all but name (with the other band's members supporting Hammill) - also worth listening to.

Finally, the one not to be missed - Judge Smith's Curly's Airships, with Hammill, Banton, Jackson from VdGG + John Ellis and none other than Arthur Brown. For reasons totally incomprehensible to me it still remains practically unknown in places like Progarchives etc...