Van Der Graaf Generator were a band apart. Even in the embryonic days of European progressive rock, they had little in common with their contemporaries like Genesis, Yes, The Moody Blues, or Gentle Giant. The Generator did find a kindred spirit in King Crimson, with Robert Fripp lending his noodling to a few early tracks. But that’s about it. They lacked the polish of most other proggers and seemed to revel in their obtuse aggressiveness.
They also reveled in science. While most prog rock bands of the era wandered into dippy fantasy world territory with their elven lyrics and Roger Dean sleeve art, Van Der Graaf Generator preferred to don lyrical lab coats and sing about physics. The title of their third album– from which the song in the above video is taken– addresses the hard-rocking topic of fusing hydrogen nuclei to form a helium nuclei.
Like Yes, VDGG were also into science fiction, but is was less the enchanted sort that Jon Anderson went all wispy-wistful over. H To He Who Am The Only One is definitely more interested in the dark side of the moon. “Pioneers Over C” delves into the minds of first men to travel faster than the speed of light. The song’s lost protagonists are definitely not as at peace with their fate as Major Tom was. And then there is the opening track, “Killer,” about some mysterious, terrible, lonely creature who lives at the bottom of the sea. I love the song and its majestic power, even if it is somewhat diminished by the time capsule lyric, “You can’t have two killers living in the same pad.”
I was particularly interested to see David Jackson playing to saxes simultaneously and then running his horns through some effects. Peter Hammill is wonderfully over the top, ready to slaughter any lamb that would dare lie down on Broadway. Good stuff, this. Proggin’ in the name of science!