A Grounding In NumbersAlbum | Van Der Graaf Generator By Jim Allen
Prog pioneers reach maturity.
Prog-rock pioneers Van Der Graaf Generator have a longstanding reputation as one of the darkest, edgiest, most intense bands ever to indulge in kooky time signatures and epic-length suites. Even when frontman Peter Hammill became a solo singer/songwriter, he came off as Peter Gabriel's evil brother. But when VDGG - which didn't make it out of the '70s alive - reunited in the mid-2000s, they had undeniably evolved. A Grounding In Numbers, the third reunion-lineup release, shows a band still dedicated to plumbing the inner depths of the soul and thinking outside the musical box (no Genesis pun intended), but the strident histrionics that sometimes emerged as an Achilles heel even on the band's classic albums are tamped down without sacrificing any edge. Knotty, unpredictable keyboard lines still dominate, but the album opens with "Your Time Starts Now," an unadorned, downright poignant ballad one might even call cautiously inspirational, and it's not an anomaly here. Hammill fans will happily note that their hero still writes like he's swallowed a thesaurus and the DSM simultaneously (that's a compliment) but while A Grounding In Numbers is hardly easy listening, it's both one of VDGG's most approachable albums and one of their most affecting.