Van Der Graaf Generator – Do Not Disturb

Van Der Graaf Generator - Do Not Disturb

Where to start? Why not ‘the end’?

“Time to leave, close the door.
You can’t believe you wanted more,
more or less, all for the best,
in the end it’s all behind you.

There’s the thing, for all you know
it’s time to let go”
(from ‘Go’ – ‘Do Not Disturb’ track 9)

Through all the tones of melancholy, retrospection and – yes – a certain sense of finality that this album most certainly evokes, there are intriguing aspects of the whole project that do in fact give one hope that it may not be simply a magnificent finale.

Hammill himself has said this isn’t necessarily the last album. He also opines that this is the finest work produced by the current line-up. In my opinion this statement is a little modest – the album is one of their finest works of any incarnation. This isn’t a claim i use lightly being a fan since the early seventies. I’m still intrigued by the music of Hammill and VDGG – so much so that i’m constantly revisiting their back catalogue almost obsessively. I do this because I always discover something different and never get tired of listening to it. I can honestly say that they are the only artist where this is the case. I wander off into Jazz and Classical now and again but VDGG (and Hammill) are always the constant in my aural escapes.

I guess the current line-up inspired me to revisit the past more frequently (Banton and Evans are in fine form here) and so Do Not Disturb feels like a culmination of my current personal journey as well as their own. The words can always be taken in a way that encourages multiple interpretations. Aloft could be seen as a reflection on their career or indeed the music industry – an apt analogy of a perilous hot air balloon journey. This interpretation could be entirely apposite or opposite to the true meaning but Hammill has always encouraged engagement in a way that suits the listeners experience. In (Oh No! I Must Have Said) Yes the sentiment appears more personal reflection i wondered about the not altogether harmonious experience he had when producing the Random Hold album Etceteraville (well worth a listen if you don’t own it). Again my own reading and maybe entirely wrong but i don’t think a right or wrong is really relevant. The lyrics come over in soliloquy style. Always thought provoking.

I have to say that in spite of the themes covered, the album doesn’t come over as in any way over sombre. There are the usual intricate changes of time signature delivered in an entirely honest and none pretentious way. This is really why i don’t consider VDGG as ‘prog’ and all the connotations that implies. On the last tour (still in my mind as if it happened yesterday) Hammill would humbly say things like ‘We are now going to attempt to play A Plague of Lighthousekeepers‘. They often play quite loosely and are happy to ‘sound unpolished’. The songs are in general very complicated and (i would imagine) extremely hard to play, so you will get multiple variations of the same songs intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally). This is the beauty of VDGG. I heartily recommend this album and sincerely hope it is not the end. If it does happen to be their last work, then they leave a legacy that will provide an incredible archive of work to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Footnote: I’m not sure if it makes me sad or it was just an excuse to go through the back catalogue again, but prior to receiving this album i was working on my 100 best VDGG/Hammill tracks!. Unfortunately a good chunk of these will need to make way for the influx of Do Not Disturb material. Undeterred I will weave them in and publish here when completed.