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Make me care about [or at least respect] prog rock.
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Artist Discussion Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next [all]
Author Make me care about [or at least respect] prog rock.
GeneralBigBag
So the topic of prog rock comes up a bunch in the 'I love modulars...' thread. I've popped my head in there to protest the idea that music was better 40 years ago and to proselytise the joys of learning about new things and keeping an open mind.

So, to practice what I preach, I would love to see some stuff to change my mind on this genre.
Here's where I'm at right now, opinion-wise:

- I really dislike flashy shows of technical ability for its own sake, and I generally associate skill with restraint, not "Oh, let's put in a bar of 17/8 here with the drummer playing triplet-feel 2/4".

- Prog makes me think of a bunch of 15 year-olds who never quite grew up, based on a lot of the imagery it's packaged with.


- King Crimson are ok I guess?

But basically this video is sort of a distillation of what I think prog has to offer, and I'd like very much to be proven wrong.

drip.feed
Listen to the Porcpine Tree album, Deadwing.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Yeah, that video was pretty bad. If that's prog-rock, I don't want any!

Listen to the following albums (with, IMO, their best songs):

Yes - Fragile (1971) (Roundabout and Heart of the Sunrise)
Yes - Close to the Edge (1972) (Close to the Edge)
Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973) (The Revealing Science of God and The Ancient)
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) (Epitaph and In the Court of the Crimson King)
King Crimson - In the Wake of Poseidon (1970) (Pictures of a City)
King Crimson - Red (1974) (Starless)
Genesis - Selling England by the Pound (1973) (Firth of Fifth and Cinema Show)
Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) (The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Riding the Scree)
Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick (1972)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Tarkus (1971) (Tarkus suite)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Trilogy (1972) (The Endless Enigma and Trilogy)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery (1974) (Karn Evil 9)

Note that these are very different albums and very different musical experiences, and it is frankly not very productive to lump them all together. For example, King Crimson from 1972/74 bears virtually no resemblance whatsoever to King Crimson from 1969/70. Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull insists that Thick as a Brick was not prog rock, but was a sarcastic dig at prog rock. It turns out to be one of the greatest prog rock albums ever made.

Anyway, if you really don't find anything in this list of (IMO) the best that prog has to offer, than I don't know what to tell you -- listen to punk?
chrisso
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:

Yes - Fragile (1971) (Roundabout and Heart of the Sunrise)
Yes - Close to the Edge (1972) (Close to the Edge)
Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973) (The Revealing Science of God and The Ancient)
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) (Epitaph and In the Court of the Crimson King)
King Crimson - In the Wake of Poseidon (1970) (Pictures of a City)
King Crimson - Red (1974) (Starless)
Genesis - Selling England by the Pound (1973) (Firth of Fifth and Cinema Show)
Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) (The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Riding the Scree)
Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick (1972)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Tarkus (1971) (Tarkus suite)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Trilogy (1972) (The Endless Enigma and Trilogy)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery (1974) (Karn Evil 9)


That's a good list.
Having lived through that period I think it's ok not to like prog-rock.
I respect all the musicians involved, it's just not something I enjoy listening to…… and that's totally ok.
trickness
"Make me care about your opinion on prog-rock"

Seriously man, with the Black Eyed Peas, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and all the other crap on the radio?
GeneralBigBag
I will give some of this a try. I know Crimson King & Red already.
On further reflection it occurs to me that all that math rock I used to listen to is probably what happens when a bunch of hardcore players wander down the prog aisle.
I will also say that I do listen to Blackjazz on occasion.
GeneralBigBag
trickness wrote:
"Make me care about your opinion on prog-rock"

Seriously man, with the Black Eyed Peas, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and all the other crap on the radio?


I'm not sure I understand what you mean.
cretaceousear
First thing is, if this is prog ya gotta listen to the whole album , no picking tracks.. the album is the artform

Pink Floyd Meddle - i.e. before they went AOR

Is French band Magma allowed? (Carl Orff, rock and jazz roots.. plus the odd cape)
Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh or Attahk
GeneralBigBag
I have a new thought. Maybe I just don't get the big English prog bands, cause I totally get Univers Zero, and I'm pretty sure this is straight up prog.
GeneralBigBag
Trying some Yes now.
CJ Miller
GeneralBigBag wrote:
So the topic of prog rock comes up a bunch in the 'I love modulars...' thread. I've popped my head in there to protest the idea that music was better 40 years ago and to proselytise the joys of learning about new things and keeping an open mind.


Prog means a way of approaching music, not anything to do with 40 years ago. It would be "prog" whenever it's done.

GeneralBigBag wrote:
I really dislike flashy shows of technical ability for its own sake, and I generally associate skill with restraint, not "Oh, let's put in a bar of 17/8 here with the drummer playing triplet-feel 2/4".


Prog is about expanding upon the very small pool of conventions of pop music, so it can be technical. But with technique comes control, and with control - restraint. Restraint in performance and composition are not the same.

GeneralBigBag wrote:
Prog makes me think of a bunch of 15 year-olds who never quite grew up, based on a lot of the imagery it's packaged with.

GeneralBigBag wrote:
Make me care about [or at least respect] prog rock.


I'd say that if you are in any way concerned with "image" of prog (or any kind of music) that you are being swayed by superficialities. Why prog keeps being mentioned in that thread is that many there complain that "virtuosity" is what is missing from much modern - and especially modular - music. I suppose the question for you then is what technical proficiency is in service of. What does it mean "for it's own sake"? The performance is for the sake of the music, so you need to find music you would actually want to hear in the first place. This is why I like prog, because of an intense aversion to simple, catchy rhythm and melody.

Over the years, there have been many flavors of prog. So-called Krautrock was mostly contemporary with prog of the English-speaking world, and has its own sensibility. Canterbury music of the 70s seems to be kind of a fusion of psychedelic and prog. RIO (Rock In Opposition) tends to be more serious prog without the pop or commercialism. Zeuhl tends to be rigorous, but with a sort of gothic sci-fi vibe. So-called "math rock" or "math metal" tends to be modern aggressive rock which focuses on difficult forms, often incorporating eclectic influences from post punk to black metal.

Goblin


Faust


Steve Hillage (w/ Gong)


Magma


Present


Dillinger Escape Plan (w/ Mike Patton)
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
GeneralBigBag wrote:
Trying some Yes now.

Listen to the "Close to the Edge" album all the way through (and don't worry too much about what the lyrics mean, because they don't mean much). If you can't get into that, then give up, cuz prog's not for you.
GeneralBigBag
CJ Miller wrote:
...many there complain that "virtuosity" is what is missing from much modern - and especially modular - music. I suppose the question for you then is what technical proficiency is in service of. What does it mean "for it's own sake"? The performance is for the sake of the music...


I personally look for virtuosity in sound design and mixing. Monolake, Ricardo Villalobos, Ben Frost all do staggering things on that tip.
Honestly, whoever mixes Skrillex records is virtuosic to make them as much of an assault as they are. There is a lot of mainstream pop music that I don't like as art but respect as craft in that sense.

-For some reason I just don't think of Krautrock as related to prog. Math rock did occur to me after I started this thread - I definitely have some of it in my collection.

-For me, Tortoise is a canonical example of extreme virtuosity coupled with extreme restraint. Or David Sylvian's last two records.

-On the prog imagery issue, I think it's reasonable to not want to listen to a bunch of lyrics that could be from a Tolkien novel, just as much as it's reasonable to not want to hear a bunch of lyrics that are mostly couplets that rhyme 'baby' and 'party'.
_seph
having just watched the BBC doc, I can only say that Prog isn't at all for me. I've tried to find some appreciation for it throughout the years but with the exclusion of a song here and there, I just can't get into it (which is only slightly more than I can say for Jam bands). I've never had much tolerance for pretense and Prog takes pretension to an absurd level on all fronts. a quote from one of the Yes guys towards the end of the film when talking of how "Prog" had almost become a dirty word saying, "It was like the porn of the music industry" captures my general feeling ...I just don't see it as art, but a lot of musical masturbation.

granted this is all a bit incongruous as I love Krautrock and mid-century Jazz and there is some similarity. I'm also fond of several bands that were on Prog's outskirts and were later influenced by it, but by and large I just can't stand most of it and alongside Jam Bands and Trance, it is one of the few genres that I will dismiss almost as a whole.

so GeneralBigBag you're definitely not alone.

in closing.. although my hearing is my dominant and most treasured sense, if presented with the choice of either always hearing ELP or being stone deaf I'd likely choose the latter. (which isn't meant to offend any of you)
trickness
GeneralBigBag wrote:
trickness wrote:
"Make me care about your opinion on prog-rock"

Seriously man, with the Black Eyed Peas, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and all the other crap on the radio?


I'm not sure I understand what you mean.


Firstly, it's pretty narrow minded to throw a huge variety of artists, all with different sounds, musical ability, songwriting craft, artistic intent, and ok, varying levels of quality into one bag. Most of these artists really hate having a genre tag thrown on them, it's something done by music journalists and picked up by fans and people who need labels for things. That said, the people who play this music at least have a decent level of musical ability, unlike many of the hacks played on pop radio today. If you don't like "pro rock", then cool. I don't like Slim Whitman, maybe I should start a thread about that seriously, i just don't get it

There's good music and bad music. Good "prog rock" and bad prog rock.

And good and bad listeners.
JohnLRice
_seph wrote:
I'm also fond of several bands that were on Prog's outskirts and were later influenced by it, but by and large I just can't stand most of it and alongside Jam Bands and Trance, it is one of the few genres that I will dismiss almost as a whole.

so GeneralBigBag you're definitely not alone.

lol, prog rock fans are FAR more alone than the people who don't like it! 8_)
_seph
JohnLRice wrote:
_seph wrote:
...it is one of the few genres that I will dismiss almost as a whole.

so GeneralBigBag you're definitely not alone.

lol, prog rock fans are FAR more alone than the people who don't like it! 8_)


LOL and it's probably best that we keep it that way evil one word: encampments
robotmakers
I think it was Greg Lake who suggested the following description of prog rock which I find useful. Whereas rock music generally sprang from American origins of blues and American folk music, prog rock's origins are European - classical music and European folk music.

Your mileage may vary,
Roger
GeneralBigBag
trickness wrote:

Firstly, it's pretty narrow minded to throw a huge variety of artists, all with different sounds, musical ability, songwriting craft, artistic intent, and ok, varying levels of quality into one bag. Most of these artists really hate having a genre tag thrown on them, it's something done by music journalists and picked up by fans and people who need labels for things.


It's not narrow-minded as much as it is lazy, but I'm being lazy because I assume that the people who respond to a thread on a modular synth forum about a particular type of (self-identifying as cerebral) music are going to get enough context that I don't have to be more precise. I personally don't hate it when people throw a genre tag on what I'm doing, as long as it's approximately right, since I understand the need to categorise.

Quote:
That said, the people who play this music at least have a decent level of musical ability, unlike many of the hacks played on pop radio today.

The virtuosity in pop music is in the arrangement and production. Hearing a really finely crafted pop song is like looking at a really well-made chef's knife. It is designed for exactly one purpose and there is nothing in it that doesn't serve that purpose. The person on stage sort of doesn't matter.

Quote:
I don't like Slim Whitman, maybe I should start a thread about that seriously, i just don't get it

Maybe there's value in wanting to understand why some people do.

The point of starting this thread was to see what people would offer up as the best prog rock so I could try and understand and perhaps appreciate it a bit more. Shit, I listened to two Yes albums this afternoon - they weren't bad, the production was really nice and had that 'a lot of money in the studio' sound to it. I probably learned something today, even if they're not going to become my new favourite band.
basicbasic
Prog, like Rap and other polarising forms of music, is tarnished by it's successes.

And it's rarely the best or most interesting that rises to the top.

Like other genres it's quite broad and can encompass stuff like the first Soft Machine albums, first couple of Kevin Ayers albums, Syd Barrett and folkier stuff like Pentangle and Dr. Strangely Strange. There's fun, cosmic stuff like Gong/Daevid Allen. And Krautrock is essentially a progressive genre so don't ignore Amon Duul, Can, early Kraftwerk and the rest.

In Australia the progressive rock era came from more of a blues and folk scene so check out Spectrum, later Masters Apprentices ('Choice Cuts' is my fave of theirs), Tully and others for a grittier, earthier sound.

So even though ELP, Yes, King Crimson and so on are the typical 'prog' groups they are really just most famous from an era when experimenting and exploring the limits of music were embraced.
CJ Miller
I think that pop music is far more pretentious than prog, for a number of reasons. Most music out there is made and marketed under the pretense of familiarity. It is "new" but not so new that it doesn't sound unlike everything else. The reason why people use similar rhythms, chords, lyrics, etc is because they are, on some level, comfortable and familiar. If you hear a snippet it of it and already grok it's style, image, meaning, etc is pretentious. It does not need to exist, because you already know what it is about. Prog, if it is any good, circumvents this process by not adhering to overused forms. It revels in complexity and subverts your expectations.

The other pretense of pop music is that it is even "popular" in the first place. It is still an artifact of an archaic, top-down broadcast media model which is tightly controlled by a small number of people. It is designed to be popular, and marketed under the pretense that it is popular. But, of course, they would say this, would they not? It is no more a window into the real lives of people than the landscape of television sitcoms, game shows, reality shows, etc. Being a captive audience in their world only conditions people with a taste for such things, but does not make it demonstrably popular. Nothing which is truly popular needs people to cherry pick through it for the masses.

When people have complained to me about how pretentious they find prog to be, this has always been explained as a personal pretense, rather than a musical one. So the listener decides that the artist must have an inflated sense of self importance, because otherwise they would have obviously done something else! Like "normal" music. When people put so much work into their music, making it into a personal problem seems, to me, to be disingenuous. Claiming to know what the artist was thinking, why they made their work, what they think you should think about it - these are all pretense as exists in the listener. Not examples of telepathy.

So, yes, I think that prog is actually much less pretentious than most kinds of music.
CJ Miller
GeneralBigBag wrote:
I have a new thought. Maybe I just don't get the big English prog bands, cause I totally get Univers Zero, and I'm pretty sure this is straight up prog.


I love Univers Zero. They are often considered to overlap between RIO and Zeuhl. It was founded by Daniel Denis, who was briefly second drummer (!) for Magma. They were introduced to me as "scary chamber rock". The band Present I linked above is a great offshoot from UZ, by way of their guitarist Roger Trigaux.

GeneralBigBag wrote:
On the prog imagery issue, I think it's reasonable to not want to listen to a bunch of lyrics that could be from a Tolkien novel, just as much as it's reasonable to not want to hear a bunch of lyrics that are mostly couplets that rhyme 'baby' and 'party'.


I guess, I have never read any Tolkien, so I would probably not recognize it. I try to avoid lyrics and "songs" to what extent I can.

GeneralBigBag wrote:
The virtuosity in pop music is in the arrangement and production. Hearing a really finely crafted pop song is like looking at a really well-made chef's knife. It is designed for exactly one purpose and there is nothing in it that doesn't serve that purpose. The person on stage sort of doesn't matter.


I'd say that the comparison breaks down because a chef's knife can be both useful and beautiful, whereas pop music tends to be neither. I agree that there is some interesting production done, but this is basically polishing a turd, so the results are not listenable. These people must be very cynical to refuse to offer anything less banal. I honestly wonder if people in the so-called "entertainment industry" aren't nursing a burning, hateful contempt for their viewers and listeners. Why can't they use those production chops on something musically challenging?

What do you think of listening to soloists? Does a recording of a live performance on a cello or synth keep your interest? Or does it need to be mixed and layered for you to enjoy it? I have met many people who absolutely require lyrics - even if they aren't actually about anything - in order to derive any enjoyment from music. Maybe that I need dissonant frequencies and complex time signatures is merely another version of the same trend. For you it is studio mixing. I consider myself quite open minded, yet there are things I strongly avoid.
JohnLRice
Here are some less often mentioned (when the question comes up) prog songs. Maybe you'll find a thing or two you enjoy. Most of this may take many listens to really start appreciating.

Le Orme: Florian


FM: Black Noise


Strawbs: Autum


Gentle Giant: His Last Voyage


UK: Rendezvous 6:02


Van Der Graaf Generator: - Meurglys III (The Songwriter's Guild)


Jethro Tull: Baker Street Muse
_seph
CJ Miller wrote:
So, yes, I think that prog is actually much less pretentious than most kinds of music.


and while I agree with your premise, when I think of Pop, pretension isn't the word which generally comes to mind (unless I recall that those such as Lady Gaga exist upon this world) although you have many good points. to me, Pop is intrinsically manipulative and it is that which springs to mind. whereas perhaps as in the documentary, Prog holds little regard for its listeners (and perhaps here is another point to argue against its pretense), conversely Pop is solely concerned with its audience, with exploiting and eliciting specific emotional response/attachment. although this again should be reason for me to like Prog as I'm naturally suspicious of anything which seems instantly attractive and there is little about Prog which is. however your intent isn't a Prog vs. Pop thing and I just don't care for such self gratuitous expression, which is why I also generally do not like Pop. so while Pop may be evil, perhaps Prog is simply vain.
GeneralBigBag
Here is an amazing pop song.


In a lot of ways Arthur Russell embodies things that I look for in music - what it boils down to is 'Deceptively simple'. I am a huge fan of 'As simple as it can be, but no simpler' and 'A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.'.
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