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Peter Hammill

Phil Kime:

Often described as Hammill's most personal album, I think this is mostly accurate. Most intense and self disparaging with simple arrangements, quite different to earlier material. The energy here is purer, clearer than before resulting in some quite stark and heavy moods. Crying Wolf opens deceptively with uptempo approach but the voice indicates things to come. Autumn creates an oppressive atmosphere dealing lyrically with being left alone by your children. If I called it depressing, I would not mean to imply it was not brilliant. The voice is rich and quite different to the earlier violent treatment. The drama is amplified by the presence of an orchestra and much romantic wailing strings. Time Heals is another bleak setting of bleak lyrics which works well. Drums arrive suddenly but the sombre vocals manage to keep the track to its ambience. It is wonderful how the screamed passion of earlier Hammill can, when suppressed, result in singularly powerful overtones of energy without the explicit fireworks. I think that is what contributes to the latent intensity of this album. Double-tracking the vocals helps, of course. Alice (Letting Go) is an acoustic ballad so sparse and matter-of-factly sung, it is difficult to find it anything other than fascinatingly uncomfortable. The lyrics are so personal that one almost feels embarrassment in the presence of a confession. This Side of the Looking Glass is orchestral yet simple and very powerful. A unique track in Hammill's output. His solo emotional vocals work very well against the strings of the orchestra. Quite a moving song I think. Betrayed is acidic from start to finish both in music and lyric. Possibly the highlight of the album: Hammill at his venomous and passionate finest. (On Tuesdays She Used to Do) Yoga is a strange and wonderful track with a vaguely sinister feeling and interruptions by deep growlings. Superb. Lost and Found would be reworked into material for the brilliant Van der Graaf track La Rossa and provides, I think, a slight anticlimax to the high energy of the album as a whole. A very strong album that must be approached with a certain attitude in order to deal with its intense impact.

© 1996 Phil Kime


Q Magazine, 56-1991, page 96:

Recorded in 1976 between VdGG incarnations, Over was a sizably brave and equally flawed exercise in open-heart surgery, based on the departure of Hammill's long-term lover, and musically underscored for maximum in-your-face impact. Ever the self-dissecting aesthete, his attempt to reconcile feelings of guilt, anger and hopelessness is endearingly sincere or insufferably self-pitying, depending on your taste for confessional catharsis, and for Hammill's academic, inherently English vernacular and meandering melodies. The acoustic Alice (Letting Go) is unnervingly close to the bone, the vitriolic Betrayed is much easier to confront, but the elegiac mood brings out some of his most elegant songs like the orchestrated, gothic gloom of This Side Of The Looking Glass, the weeping-willowy Autumn and the episodic Time Heals.

© 1991 Martin Aston - Q Magazine

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