These reissues offer three more reasons why so much residual love for this arty, noisy...
Daryl Easlea 2005
By the middle of the 1970s, Van Der Graaf Generator's sound was subtly changing from their early incarnation. Buoyed up by the success of their 1975 reunion album, Godbluff and the reception its follow-up, Still Life received, their 1976 release, World Record was altogether harder and more song focussed than its predecessors. There is crispness in their attack and longer pieces such as ''A Place To Survive'' are stripped-down and less embellished than works of old.
As 1977 approached, the group split; instead of calling it a day, Peter Hammill felt that there was, er, still life in the group: dropping the 'Generator' from the name and, to compensate for the loss of Hugh Banton and David Jackson, Hammill and Guy Evans brought original bassist Nic Potter back into the fold and added Graham Smith from String Driven Thing on violin. The resulting album, The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome was released in September 1977, and it survived intact at the height of new wave, because its terse, opaque songs struck a particular chord in the new climate, proving that venom was not solely a punk's prerogative. ''A Sphinx In The Face'', a continuation of Hammill's obsession with growing older is an ever-shimmering highlight as is the swooning ''Lizard Play'' and ''Habit Of The Broken Heart''.
The double live Vital was the noisy sign-off to Van Der Graaf. Recorded at London's Marquee during the second punk winter, it is desolate, dark and heavy, a mixture of new material and classics, delivered sparsely and aggressively. All VDGG originals are shredded with Hammill in loud rock guitar mode. Quiet Zone leftover ''Door'', ''Urban'' and finally, ''Nadir's Big Chance'', still maliciously (and deliciously) burst forth. Although VDG imploded, this era paved the way for one of the most interesting interludes in Hammill's career setting his course as a dark, electro-acoustic one-man band.
With Present demonstrating 27 years on that they haven't lost it, it's difficult to think of comebacks more impeccable than Van Der Graaf Generator's. These reissues offer three more reasons why so much residual love for this arty, noisy and heartfelt quartet remains.