PETER HAMMILL Over (EMI)
On the one hand, the slashing yet intricate guitar attack of Over opener Crying Wolf isnt quite what Idve expected from Peter Hammill (albeit that my only previous exposure to his work was a cursory listen to The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other at least 20 years ago). Then again, John Lydon was never shy of expressing his appreciation for Van Der Graaf Generator, so maybe it makes perfect sense. Over, an album that takes very public stock of the wreckage of a long-term relationship, also sounds a lot like Peter Gabriels contemporaneous solo work, specifically his second eponymous album, with the avant garde knob turned up to 11. Instead of wallowing in pity, though, the artist engages in a fair degree of incisive self-examination, frequently questioning the value of the creative process even as he participates in it. Stick-thin and pallid on the cover photograph, he looks like Richard Ashcrofts dad.
Over is not without its miscalculations. Autumn is almost humorously camp, as if scripted by Noel Coward; Harry Chapin covered similar territory essentially the redundancy of ageing parents - more entertainingly and with far greater concision on Cats In The Cradle. The tempestuous twists occurring in longer songs such as Time Heals could be accused of having progressive leanings, I suppose, but, if so, they display a sinewy toughness thats more King Crimson than Yes. (Not that theres anything wrong with Yes, of course.) This Side Of The Looking Glass opens with Hammill singing acapella, like a wounded choirboy, before being lifted up by swelling orchestration; its a gentle, broody and affecting piece. Nevertheless, on Betrayed and the aforementioned Crying Wolf the bitterness burns through, especially the former, in which an acoustic guitar keeps score in a battle between the screaming singer and a flurry of violins that wheel around him like vultures. (On Tuesdays She Used To Do) Yoga is perhaps the albums most approachable moment, a succinct, mordantly humorous examination of midweek evenings chez Hammill, and for me Lost And Found is its high watermark. Relatively optimistic, if only in comparison with whats gone before, on its remarkable Put on your red dress, baby coda this rather chilly and bloodless album becomes subsumed beneath a couple of decades worth of pop culture-sanctioned views of romance.