Monday, 29 April 2013

A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers (Van Der Graaf Generator, 1971)

What a suite is this... how deep, creative, complex and hard to catch track it is! 23 minutes of surprises, 10 movements of pure genius. Of course, it's not the kind of song you'll be able to sing taking a shower, but this is not exactly what prog was born for. Many fans reckon this suite and all the "Pawn Hearts" album is the creative peak of VDGG; I'm not so sure of that (what about "H to He..." or "Still Life"?), but "A Plague..." is certainly a masterpiece and a very influential track in prog history. I confess I had many problems with this song: it's so intricate and unusual that I had to listen to it at least four times to get into it. Some movements are plain, even easy to catch, but other ones are dark and cryptic, even aggressive... but at last I appreciated the whole lot and I simply loved it when I listened to it at night. Yes, after all this is about a lighthouse and you need such a machinery in the dark.

"Pawn Hearts" is  a whole world to explore.

Behind the countless changes of the track, its jazzy, gloom, heavy, avant-garde or creepy, noisy or silent movements, there's a grievous story the lyrics relate leaving out all details. The narrator is the lighthouse keeper and we learn he's remorseful and distressed for a shipwreck he caused by forgetting to turn on the lighthouse lantern. Both music and lyrics are soaked in sorrow and confusion, along with the narrator's quest for atonement and redemption. A long and amazing journey through the most intimate and dramatic proglands.You're warned.