"It's amazing that this album still casts such a powerful spell on me after 27 years -- but Peter Hammill's work is an amazing thing. Always musically challenging and ahead of his time (he was through defining 'gothic' and moving beyond definitions when most of today's purveyors of 'gothic' were still pissing their nappies), the raw honesty of his lyrics, issued forth in some of the most intelligent, expressive poetry ever to meet a tune, carry his art far past the fragile boundaries of 'rock music' into continuously expanding areas of exploration. Music for the head, without a doubt -- but grounded in the heart and soul of a man who's not afraid to take a good look within himself.Some of the songs on this album -- originally released in 1974, Hammill's third solo album -- deal with a variety of topics, all tied together by the thread of the 'i', the individual that resides at the core of each of us. Some are direct in dealing with this concept, some are more oblique -- some are extremely metaphorical and psychological in nature, some are deceptively simple and personal. Even those of this latter category are shot through with intimations of deeper thought and meaning, piercing through now and then like stars through the curtain of night.Peter produced this album himself -- if memory serves, it's the first of his many albums that were self-produced -- and every song is anchored by his acoustic guitar or piano. The arrangements are for the most part multi-layered -- but always with great results. He's aided and abetted by some of his bandmates from Van der Graaf Generator -- notably the incredible David Jackson (saxes and flutes) and Guy Evans (thundering drumkit of the gods). Interestingly, Peter is joined on the track 'Red shift' by none other than Randy California (of the American 60s band Spirit), who contributes some beautiful, soaring, chock-full-of-sustain lead guitar lines that are extremely Frippian in nature.'Modern', the album's great opening track, utilizes the metaphor of doomed cities (Jericho, Babylon, Atlantis) to speak of the transient nature of things that we look upon as permanent -- a theme he returns to in 'Forsaken gardens' and 'Red shift', although these songs (as, indeed, most of his works) reveal multiple themes on close listenings. 'Wilhelmina' is a simple song to (I think) his daughter -- unique in its directness and honesty, simultaneously full of hope and dread and ultimately love of the most honest kind. 'The lie (Bernini's St. Theresa)' looks at our need for faith, and how difficult it is for some people to hold and to give. 'Forsaken gardens', a hard look at the ravages of time -- on the world and on our lives as well -- encourages us to tear down the walls that separate us from each other before it's too late. 'Red shift' takes a scientific principal of the movement of the Universe and turns it into a metaphor for the human condition and our fear of isolation and loneliness. The arrangement on 'Rubicon' harkens back to the sound of Peter's previous album, CHAMELEON IN THE SHADOW OF THE NIGHT -- particularly the song 'German overalls' on that release -- and addresses the need for honesty in a relationship, free of subterfuge, all the time acknowledging that we are all 'actors in a play'. The album's tour de force and climax, the 12-minute-plus 'A louse is not a home' is in many ways typical of Hammill's longer works, but, as all of his pieces, is distinctly individual. Jackson and Evans both play on this track, and the choppy, odd-tempo rhythms are very reminiscent of Van der Graaf's work. In this song, Hammill uses the idea of the home to examine the deepest depths of his own -- and, by extension, our -- psyche, and he spares none of the 'rooms' that he finds, illuminating them all with the characteristic precision of his observations. The theme of the 'i' is most obvious in this track, but is present in every song on this album -- and it recurs on some of his later releases as well.Peter's career has been a long and productive one -- and, thankfully, he's still active. Between his work as lyricist and lead vocalist for Van der Graaf, and his mind-boggling catalogue of solo works, he has given us a body of art that is intelligent, insightful, thought-provoking, challenging and entertaining. It's hard to go wrong with ANY of his releases -- this is one of my all-time favorites."
One Part Brilliant, Six Parts Embarrassing
Dale Chapman | San Ramon, CA USA | 07/15/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I am a huge fan of Peter Hammill and VDGG, but prefer both after 1975. For Peter Hammill, this means I jump on board for "Nadir's Big Chance", and for VDGG, I prefer "Godbluff", "Still Life" and "World Record". This does not mean there are not elements of the Peter Hammill I love in "The Silent Corner & The Empty Stage", but only that they are limited to the spectacular "Louse is Not a Home". This track - the last track on the disk, clocking in at 12:11 - is dynamic, episodic, and is not guilty of the albums' other vices. What vices? Well, the prose is a little too purple for my taste. For example, the track "Rubicon" has the lyric: "I lay down beside you: I am a unicorn, you a virginal maid". I don't know about you, but to me this sounds like the wet dream of a teenage Dungeons and Dragons escapist. The overall vibe of the music is a bit too twee, precious, and self-indulgent. I quote, once again: "Through the grief, through the pain, our flowers need each other's rain". Oh, boy. You really do need this disc for your collection. "Louse is Not a Home" is a bonafide 5 star classic, and well-worth the price of admission. The remainder of the album has its moments of beauty and intrigue, but teeters on the brink of maudlin embarrassment."
"A louse is not a Home" belongs virtually to V.D.G.G.
Lethe | Milan, Italy | 12/09/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best solo stuff by Peter HAMMIL, that could be easily put among the best albums by Van Der Graaf Generator, the present solo album representing Peter Hammil at his best and in the vein of his prog efforts with Banton, Jackson, Evans&company(together with the mythical "Fall of the house of usher", in my opinion)...like a new piece of ART-MUSIC, with the support of the former members of V.D.G.G naturally!!. Besides you can find a variety of topics, showing the exceptional versatility of this great artist and fantastic vocalist as well!! The opening track "Modern" is a clear reference, a certain visible recall to the mythological cities of the Ancient times (Babylon, Atlantis, etc), talking about the ephemeral nature of human things, through the filter of Hammil's dark experience and dramatic act too (listen to "Fall of the house of Usher" and understand why...): Peter analyses here the controversial/unsolved question about the sense of life, passing through the bother hood and the critical moments as well.
His approach is similar to that one utilised with V.D.G.G., but I think of his more personal work, focused on his life,by means of his typical acoustic guitar/piano work too ...so the support of his long time friends is necessary but marginal, Hammil being the dominant character here!!Recommended also to the fans of V.D.G.G.!!"
"Thundering madness abounds!"
Victor F. Tripaldi | Planet Earth | 01/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Peter Hammill 's third solo effort is as astounding as the prior two. The classic "A LOUSE IS NOT A HOME" is PH at his cathedral best with the help of friends from VDGG ( randy california plays guitar on "RED SHIFT") Hammill continues down the long dark road where no man has gone before. With sounds of screams one has to wonder how one reaches such depths. Although if one can get past that, then one is in for a treat. 'Forsaken gardens" captures the promise of the early years of "Least we can do" period of the band. "The Lie" & 'Modern " are as contempeory now as they were then. A voice made for angles but witch is guided by the devil. Genesis who?"