on 19 April 2012
In his review of Peter Hammill's recent box set of live performances: Stewart Lee, the comedian and free music aficionado, refers to Hammill as a "national treasure" (the review can be accessed from [ ... ] ). "Consequences" the new studio album, is not an easy listen and is certainly not aimed at the casual listener, but put the effort in and approach it with an open mind and you will realise why this somewhat over-used accolade is actually merited in Hammill's case.
Hammill's music does not fit into any single category and little is gained by trying to shoehorn an artist this unique and this original into some pre-defined genre. The overall mood of this work is dark and abrasive even by his previous standards, but overall this is a deeply moving work that stands head and shoulder above much of what has been released elsewhere in 2012. Marc Almond has recently called Hammill "one of the most expressive and impressive vocalists ever" and the fact that very few artists in the field of pop/rock music get into double figures in terms of albums released let alone well over 50 underline why if any album deserves to be heard and appreciated outside a few cognoscenti - this one does.
on 24 April 2012
Van der Graaf Generator aficionados could no doubt explain in detail the critical make-up and mix that made this band, in their initial 60s/70s incarnation and brief rebirth in `75/76 [Jackson leaving in `76, the group disbanding in `78], such a unique and memorable musical phenomenon, but it was and always will be Peter Hammill's role that dominates in that creative and performance fusion for me, essentially with his distinctive vocals that combine their unique, often operatic sound and always dramatic emotion. I'm not excluding David Jackson's electronic and electrifying saxophone playing - always a crucial part of the live performances, as well as recordings, I loved in those early days.
This latest solo release, Hammill's thirtieth, is another entirely self performed and produced recording. The ten tracks are anchored wholly to that hypnotic vocal which at its core narrates each song's story and/or thesis [the polemical is always somewhere] in the idiosyncratic way Hammill does, breaking into the melody with its suddenness of this, and in most tracks augmented then by the complex multi-tracking of his voice for harmonies and choric developments.
The polemic in much of this collection regards language and what we speak/say. With titles like 'Eat My Words, Bite My Tongue'; 'That Wasn't What I Said', and the line 'Chose your words as if you were constantly overheard' from the beautiful song 'Constantly Overheard', it is clear that there is warning, regret and regard for how we communicate with one another. These narratives make the listening an intense experience, and in this respect Hammill is a demanding artist: it most definitely isn't easy listening, either in sound or content, but anyone knowing Hammill will know this. Indeed, there isn't a single track for me that stands above any other in melodic terms - though I have already mentioned the most `tuneful', relatively speaking, in 'CO' - and it is the collective voicing as narration and then soaring emotion that forms the whole experience. Closer 'A Run of Luck' is classic in this respect with solo voice and piano slowly and portentously narrating Hammill's musing, again focusing on language which when it 'stays unspoken will prove to be the truer word than any we shout out loud', but then also offering this seemingly hopeful if candid observation 'life's still great though the wick's burnt down'.
on 28 April 2012
When I first listened to Consequences my first thought was that it was "difficult". Perhaps this is the default position for PH records- its predecessor Thin Air is no easy listen either- but this more so than most. Repeated listenings confirm that it's not a record you can let drift by; it requires engagement and thought on the part of the listener- but that's what differentiates enjoyable one-off experiences from those that will reward many, many repeats.
The word "genius" is over-used, particularly in the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of contemporary music, but for me this man is head and shoulders above all imaginable rivals both for his longevity as an artist and for his consistent quality. I rank this along with his very best works- Over,The Future Now, A Black Box, None of the Above, Clutch and Singularity. A glance at that list gives another clue to Hammill's pre-eminence as an artist: they are all so very different; he moves on whilst retaining or improving quality. Consequences is the latest stage in the journey. It may not be for the faint-hearted, but if you like the other albums mentioned above this is unmissable.
on 26 July 2012
I never usually comment on PH albums although I have nearly all the PH and VDGG catalogue. Reviews were nearly always better written by others, and although I always did try to explore some of his more difficult songs for meaning I was frequently found wanting. I'd habitually console myself with the fact that I was listening to a lyrical genius and the ultimate voice in contemporary music, therefore not all of his concepts were immediately forthcoming. However.....
After a few listens I became more aware that this album was reaching out and touching my consciousness like no other PH recording. The more I listened the more I realised that the lyrical concepts were pulling me in on a personal level making me confront the consequences of my own actions on an analytical level. The dreadful social blunders, the innocent remarks taken the wrong way, the unwanted attachments from people I wanted only to be friends were resurfacing again and prompting me to wake up screaming even though I wasn't sleeping.
After an inconspicuous start, the album increased its hold and intensity. Feeling more uneasy, it was as though I was being stalked. Eventually I was cornered, they all got to me, but these got me the most....
"All the tiredness" is an acknowledgement of the inevitable. The wick not yet burned down but flickering and unsteady. We're not all there yet, but we will be.
A tap on the shoulder then pointed me in the direction of Charles Bridge in Prague that is aligned with statues of the saints in "A perfect pose". This is a more mysterious song that perhaps warns against living an unauthentic life. Better to live your life genuinely, to make your mistakes and take the consequences rather than fritter it away in some dilettante existence seeking the unattainable. Anyway, that's just my take on it!
"Bravest face" clearly indicates that an unauthentic life is not an option. At first it appears to be strictly a personal PH pre-concert experience but we've all been in positions where we have to face unavoidable situations that involve no other option but to see it through no matter how tough, but we were never more alive!
"Sharpened scissors" could be a sequel to "Like Veronica" a possible consequence of all abuse going too far. I think this must be the most terrifying song he has ever written! Emerging from behind the settee I had to admit to myself that the abused and those that wronged them are real and living hidden amongst us as a consequence of our own actions. That could have been me!
For me, this is a lyrical (and instrumental) masterpiece. Yes, he has written more intellectual concepts but I have never encountered songs that affect me so profoundly as these. How can it be more intense, how can it be more raw and confessional? Since his near fatal heart attack PH has written some of his best ever work. It seems to me that he is writing every album as though it were his last.
`A run of luck' is a top-drawer tour de force. When it's all said and done whether we are the angel, killer or refugee all of us are subject to the run of luck that life ultimately comes down to. Almost funereal sounding and pulling us together on a symbiotic level we can all only live life with integrity and wait till the `wicks burned up'. If this is his last, the soundtrack to my life will be over, but I won't be the only one to feel that loss. When the flame eventually does go out, don't ask for whom the bell tolls, with this album at least, it tolls for thee.....
.... Can't wait for the next one!!!
on 15 June 2012
How does this guy do it?. Once again Mr Hammill produces another outstanding piece of work. Unfortunately he is not probably going to gain many converts / new disciples with this release. However those that know his vast body of work will be very appreciative of this most recent outing. Again like most of his work, this album requires time and repeated plays to fully appreciate the depth and strength of the songs. This is another fine example of a master songwriter at work. I cannot recommend this enough. This CD standa alongside his finest. I cannot think of another artist who continuously produces such a high quality on each new release. Fantastic stuff.
on 25 May 2012
By the time most artists get to their third or fourth album they are past their best or begin to fall into some kind of safe pastiche of their previous selves. In the case of Peter Hammill nothing could be further from the truth, after over four decades of making music his flame is still very much alive. Never one for compromising or making music that could be described as easy listening he has produced another album of difficult angular music, which is dense with multi-layered voices and guitars. Perseverance is very rewarding with this release, especially as the album concludes with it's strongest tracks in 'Scissors', 'Bravest Face' and 'A Run of Luck". This is a completely solo album and I particularly welcome the return of PH the bass player, a very unique approach to playing bass. If I have one criticism, it is that I would like to hear a bit more variation in tempo - that said if you've ever like Hammill and / or VDGG then check this one out - his music will still have your Aunt Betty running for the nearest exit!
The fractured soundscape of `Consequences' is merely a front for a set of highly melodic songs. Take a listen to the gorgeous acoustic guitar melody of `Constantly Overheard' as proof. Hammill can never escape his rich melodic gifts. It's at the centre of all the tracks here, though the listener might be slightly wrong-footed by the odd off-kilter piano and guitar and their sometimes unsettling settings. As often with Hammill, these songs will grow on you and, before you know it, you'll be whistling them as you walk along the road. This perhaps surpasses 'Thin Air'. Songs are great; backing vox as layered and complex and - on occasion - downright loony (see 'Perfect Pose') as ever and, sometimes, quite Beatle-esque. The packaging - card, fold-out, sleeve, with inner slipcase and separate lyric booklet - is outstanding, the kind of thing we want. Jewel cases should be banned! Cool PH photo, but should a rock-star really wear corduroy trousers? Apparently, it's his 30th solo. But, really, who's counting ...
on 16 May 2012
A sort of concept album about communication and language, this will appeal to Hammill fans immensely. Compelling, sometimes uneasy listening, it rewards repeated plays. How many artists have retained this level of quality over so long a period?
on 6 February 2013
Peter Hammill is the best music artist that I've heard in my life, this is an excellent album as they are all of his works. Not a masterpiece as "Fool's Mate", "Nadir's..", "Over", "Fireships" and more, but highly recommended.
on 6 April 2013
He can still bemuse and entertain me after all these years. The more I play it the better I like it