Indeed, what a difference 27 years makes. Another interesting album. Far more listenable than most of their efforts. This release was divided into two discs. The first consists of six finished tracks, one of which (Boleas Panic) is an instrumental. The second is made up of ten improvisations. This album has more of an overarching theme that has to do, I think, with bearing up or sinking under the burden of history.

One of thevdgg-p first things one notices about this album is David Jackson’s horns, missing (for the most part) from the last two 1970s releases. They’re really quite integral to the Van Der Graaf sound and it was odd on the previous release to have them replaced with strings.

The opening track, Every Bloody Emperor, is one of the only politically charged songs in the band’s catalogue. While it was bloody appropriate to 2005, the beginning of Bush II’s second term, it seems even more so now:

Truth’s been beaten to its knees; the lies embed ad infinitum
till their repetition becomes a dictum
we’re traitors to disbelieve.

Nutter Alert seems to be a flip side of MC 900 Ft. Jesus’ The Killer Inside Me, the narrator of which is an absolute nutter. (I have a feeling I’ve mentioned The Killer Inside Me with reference to an earlier song, but I’m not certain.) Nutter Alert has the narrator indicating that he’s stuck listening to someone who is no longer fully with the programme:

Oh, but here comes that special nonsense
all the words out in a spurt,
the unhinging of the trolley
as the mouth begins to blurt…

Abandon Ship! is lyrically a little weak, but I quite like the interplay of the horns and guitars.

In Babelsberg seems to describe a walk through late 20th century Berlin and compares it to, perhaps, a pre-reunification version of the same city.

The light is getting dimmer,
the walls of history close in.
In Babelsberg they’re hunting
for a different Stimmung (mood, according to google translate)
that predates the war.

The title of the disc 1’s closing track, On The Beach, would suggest Neville Chute’s novel of the same title, about life in a post-nuclear war Australia, but lyrically, not so much. ‘We could have thrown in our cards / when the going got hard / but evidently we went on interminably’ seems to indicate another of Hammill’s tales of love that’s gone awry in that human way.

The improvisations of disc 2 seem to be more focused than those that made up, for example, the various sections of A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers. While the band members are striking out for the edges of what a song can hold, they manage to pull each piece back into a song.