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Record Review Reprint
At this point in his career, Hammill's social conscience got the better of him and thus began what I consider to be his middle period. Hammill's lyrical style is simplified considerably. No more dense metaphor or stories, much of the text is straightforward commentary or thinly veiled criticism. Personally, I feel that this was not a particularly good thing as the concentration on issues seems to me to be to the slight detriment of the music. Nevertheless, the music is overall rather good. This album is not the best of this period, The Second Hand is most bland, for example. Pushing Thirty has some very Van der Graaf brass. Energy Vampires is an excellent track, full of experimentation, while If I Could is a classic setting for plain guitars recalling parts of his very early material. The chorus has a lovely and rather unexpected modulation, if a little "announced". The title track is the most well known track from this album, a well-constructed vocal part but the lyrics are rather weak for Hammill. I see no merit at all in subject matter overriding phonetics and sonority. None at all. The passion with which it is sung is particularly of note. Mediaeval is a quite marvellous fake chorale for multitracked Hammill sounding a little like some of the material on the Loops and Reels release. A Motor-Bike in Afrika is interesting. A throbbing engine sound and affected Afrikans accent. Semantic content overriding music however. Experiments, more successful, would follow in the wake of this on A Black Box. The album finishes with two classic Hammill tracks, The Cut, a vocally treated sinister acoustic and electronics affair and the mysterious Palinurus. I neglected this album for far too long before taking it seriously and must say that this was a mistake as it has much to recommend it. It contains the roots of most of the work in this period.
© 1996 Phil Kime
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