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August 16, 2012 4:23 AM   Subscribe

As foretold by the prophets of Atlantis, before its destruction, a mortal (Dave Weigel of Slate) has come to reveal the true story of Prog Rock. posted by dortmunder (97 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
Vance the Puppet sez: "Prog rock is good for your head!

(Nice posting. But how can you write 3 articles about the history of prog rock with no mention of Soft Machine!?)
posted by crazy_yeti at 4:55 AM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


You should have included the proggiest song ever progged, which sounds like an outtake from the earlier work of Spın̈al Tap.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:56 AM on August 16, 2012


from the Cracked link:

> With 160GB of storage, iPod classic can now hold up to 40 progressive rock songs.

i LOLd
posted by jfuller at 5:07 AM on August 16, 2012 [24 favorites]


Blazing-hot live Soft Machine from French TV in 1967 - this is the band that made me realize I had it all wrong about prog rock: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xcrldb_soft-machine-hope-for-happiness-tv_music

I grew up under the punk-rock ideology that it's not cool to be able to play well. But that wore thin for me in my 20s when I got interested in radically experimental music (thanks mainly to This Heat and Fred Frith), and realized that much of what I had disdained as "prog excess" actually showed far more real commitment and innovation than anything coming out of the punk movement, which mostly puts the radicalism in the lyrics and makes the music reactionary. Now, 30-some years later, I'm almost never compelled to put on a Ramones or Sex Pistols record, but these old Soft Machine recordings sound great to me!
posted by crazy_yeti at 5:09 AM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I loved, loved this stuff in high school and for a while in college as well. The first time I heard all of Darkside of the Moon was in a neighbor's basement with the lights off. I fondly recall siting in a dorm room in the dark listening to Gentle Giant, Yes, and early Supertramp (they get poppier over time, obviously).

I got better.
posted by tommasz at 5:14 AM on August 16, 2012


I saw ELP wayyyy back in college. Keith Emerson noodling around on his wall-of-patch-cords synth setup was an excruciatingly long and boring ordeal. And I love electronic music!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:16 AM on August 16, 2012


Prog Rock Special, parts 1 and 2
posted by TedW at 5:19 AM on August 16, 2012


[gandalf] The spirit of prog endured... [/gandalf]

Check out Amogh Symphony's science fiction concept album The Quantum Hack Code
posted by Egg Shen at 5:25 AM on August 16, 2012


Prog Rock Special, parts 1 and 2
TedW, thanks for that! (Missed it the first time around). Nice set of videos there, some of the less-well-known stuff (prog is not all ELP, Yes and King Crimson). There's a CAN video linked in Part 1, which makes me wonder about the overlap of prog rock (mostly considered unfashionable) and Krautrock (which has had quite a revival in the last 5-10 years). Opinions?
posted by crazy_yeti at 5:28 AM on August 16, 2012


I only first heard Court of the Crimson King a couple years ago - - I can't believe I missed such an incredible album, lo these many decades.
posted by fairmettle at 5:29 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you want some more contemporary prog-like sounds, try Cardiacs and of course Tool.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:31 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


[stubborn mode]

Well, I don't care, I still like Genesis.

[/stubborn mode]

Actually, I never got into the early stuff - my fandom only goes as far back as Trick Of The Tail. But for a dreamy, arty, but slightly sheltered girl in a dull Connecticut suburb where everyone else is listening to absolutely mindless pop, they were a revelation. I actually felt like Invisible Touch was a weird sort of betrayal ("Guys, you....you sound like everyone else now. Damn you.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:41 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like ELP, and always have; I've still got a few LPs stashed away in my vinyl collection, having survived the post-marriage winnowing from 1000+ albums to something closer to 80. Among other things, ELP was my introduction to HR Geiger, which is really... odd, now that I think about it.

I'm also a big Mastodon fan, but I'm not sure I'd slot Crack The Skye under "prog". There are some nods there, sure, but it's still a massive-slabs-of-metal album, just a little more ambitious in structure than most.
posted by Shepherd at 5:49 AM on August 16, 2012


Wait, you mentioned contemporary Prog Rock and didn mention Porcupine Tree?

They had Adrian Belew play on a few tracks. That's the Good Housekeeping Seal Of Appoval for Prog Rock!
posted by eriko at 5:50 AM on August 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Unfortunately I think Porcupine Tree's music became less proggy after In Absentia
posted by rebent at 5:53 AM on August 16, 2012


Actually, I never got into the early stuff - my fandom only goes as far back as Trick Of The Tail.

Genesis can neatly be divided up into three career slices -- the Peter Gabriel years (up through The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway), the middle bit (from Trick Of The Tail through Abacab) where they evolved away from prog and lost Steve Hackett, and the pop years. (Plus Congo, but we won't talk about that.)

If you're really only familiar with the final 2/3 of their career arc, I strongly recommend you check out Selling England By The Pound, Nursery Cryme, and Foxtrot. SEBTP is a nearly perfect album, IMO. Trespass feels to me like fanboy-only territory, it's pretty raw in a lot of ways. And while I love love love The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, the amount of commitment and stamina it takes to not only listen to it, but to try to make any sense of it is pretty large.

Anyway, I'm a HUGE prog rock fan, and really appreciate this post. I look forward to digging through the links!
posted by hippybear at 6:03 AM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Trespass feels to me like fanboy-only territory

Color me fanboy.
posted by 3.2.3 at 6:11 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you liked it, you should have put a ring [modulator] on it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:11 AM on August 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


2nd-ing Cardiacs, better even than sliced bread.

Also, Magma, who have to represent the far shores of Progressive Rock - their masterwork Theusz Haamtakh is a science-fiction epic, sung in a totally made-up language (Kobaiian), spread over three separate albums. They sound a bit like a jazz-rock version of the first two minutes of Carmina Burana stretched out to three hours. But in a good way.

And Van Der Graaf Generator - magnificent, often terrifying, no jokes.
posted by Grangousier at 6:11 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I did check out Foxtrot, but it was a little too weird for my just-a-bit-sheltered self back then. I've listened since, but I still am not into it -- I think when it comes to "weird musical shit" I prefer the junkyard grit of Tom Waits or something.

Foxtrot is a little too much Ariel and I guess I prefer Caliban.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:14 AM on August 16, 2012


The Genesis boxed set 70-75 is an amazing thing. The remastering is fantastic. The stereo mixes are great, but the 5.1 surround mixes are delightful. (all those twelve strings-swoon!) Their early studio recordings always had a flat sound to them in my opinion and these mixes give them just the right amount of punch without too much modern twiddling. "Trespass" is a real gem in this set and benefits greatly. I always liked it, but it really shines now.
posted by Ululator at 6:17 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jethro Tull: Thick as A Brick

And now... TAAB II

40 years later what if, maybes, and might have beens.
posted by Gungho at 6:20 AM on August 16, 2012


I meant Van Der Graaf Generator, of course.
posted by Grangousier at 6:28 AM on August 16, 2012


I never understood lumping Tull in with the prog crowd. Because they use a classical instrument? Because they wrote longer, thematically connected songs?

Not enough. They were a folk influenced group with a sense of humor about themselves. Whatever King Crimson, ELP, Genesis and Yes were, Tull was definitely not.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:34 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ululator: I agree completely with you about the boxed sets. The remastering of the early material really brings it to life in a way like I'd never heard before, and the 5.1 mixes distribute the sound so nicely that you can get a real sense of each instrument standing on its own.

I especially like how the 5.1 mix of Lamb Lies Down contains the three-screen slideshow they used on tour (or tried to use, as I understand it rarely functioned correctly), with a bit of footage from performances thrown in here and there. Really great to finally see that. Makes me wish against all hope that they'd all get together for a Lamb reunion tour using today's concert technology.
posted by hippybear at 6:34 AM on August 16, 2012


I can't think of prog rock without thinking of Bacon Ray.
posted by eoden at 6:38 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I never fell for prog rock. Too toodly oodly oodly, and too like lite metal, metal without all the closeted death opera. But I guess it's still a thing, not just history. People still write it, record it, and perform it, and people still go to concerts.

And while I love love love The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, the amount of commitment and stamina it takes to not only listen to it, but to try to make any sense of it is pretty large.

Someone ought to go back and rewrite or sample the hell out of it. For example, on first listen "Carpet Crawlers" is a lovely song that sounds like it must be about childhood (carpet crawlers) until you discover it's about some crazy shite involving a guy named Rael finding himself (I'll let Wikipedia finish) "in a red carpeted corridor, filled with kneeling people that are slowly crawling towards a red door at the end of the hall. Rael dashes by them towards the door and goes through it. Behind the door is a table with a candlelit feast on it, and behind that, a spiral staircase that leads upwards out of sight." Yeah! If you want a guaranteed hit, skip all that and just play a sample of "The carpet crawlers heed their callers. We've gotta get in to get out..." over and over while some self-absorbed rapper goes on and on about his childhood being rough but now he has a shiny car.
posted by pracowity at 6:39 AM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah, but many of us couldn't give even a fraction of a toss about rappers' shiny cars, and don't mind Peter Gabriel transcribing stuff from his dream diary. Your bugs are our features.
posted by Grangousier at 6:48 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I fucking hate prog rock, as any good person of my era should, but I find *writing* about prog so damned fascinating to read.

But I can almost sell the pot while reading this thread, man.
posted by Mezentian at 6:57 AM on August 16, 2012


I don't buy Dream Theater as modern-day prog... they've always struck me as an evolution of the 1980s "Guys who can play amazingly blazingly fast and are inhumanly technically proficient but play with no soul whatsoever" instrumental hair metal genre.

For your modern instrumental prog needs might I suggest:

Zombi
Vonfrickle
posted by usonian at 6:57 AM on August 16, 2012


Ah, but many of us couldn't give even a fraction of a toss about rappers' shiny cars, and don't mind Peter Gabriel transcribing stuff from his dream diary.

I agree entirely about the shiny cars. But, especially compared to what Gabriel wrote after Genesis, Gabriel's Genesis stuff is also just awful. The porcelain manikin with shattered skin fears attack. The eager pack lift up their pitchers - they carry all they lack. The liquid has congealed, which has seeped out through the crack, And the tickler takes his stickleback.
posted by pracowity at 7:12 AM on August 16, 2012


Gabriel's Genesis stuff is also just awful, but very much par for the course for that period of time and the genre. Consider the the nonsense Jon Anderson was writing over with Yes:

"Battleships confide in me and tell me where you are
Shining, flying, purple wolfhound, show me where you are
Lost in summer, morning winter, travel very far
Lost in musing circumstances, that's just where you are"

Foxtrot's "Get 'em out by Friday" was actually more of a forerunner of where Gabriel was going than Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
posted by three blind mice at 7:21 AM on August 16, 2012


A bit of prog, free jazz, rock and a healthy dose of whatnot from Italy. Area Arbeit Macht Frei (1973)
posted by Ululator at 7:34 AM on August 16, 2012


Hoping this will help Mr. Weigel see the light out of the miserable world of DC politics reporting--kicking Cindy Sheehan and Wonkette when they are down, etc.--to writing about the stuff he likes.
posted by steinsaltz at 7:45 AM on August 16, 2012


I never understood lumping Tull in with the prog crowd.


They wrote an album length single song, complete with a fictitious back story. That puts them squarely in the prog rock camp. Just because there aren't any 10-minute dithering Hammond organ solos doesn't make them any less prog.

Oh dear, I hope I'm not starting a what-is-what-isn't-prog-rock argument.
posted by slogger at 7:52 AM on August 16, 2012



Wait, you mentioned contemporary Prog Rock and didn mention Porcupine Tree?


Where does watchamacallit fit in ... Grizzly Bear? Or is that jazz fusion rock? And what's the difference?
posted by mrgrimm at 7:58 AM on August 16, 2012


List feel incomplete without any mention of Rush.
posted by zuhl at 7:59 AM on August 16, 2012


Or Radiohead.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:05 AM on August 16, 2012


Radiohead doesn't have enough solos. do they?
posted by mrgrimm at 8:08 AM on August 16, 2012


Little known fact: Masami Akita (AKA Merzbow) got his start as a prog rock drummer.
posted by idiopath at 8:09 AM on August 16, 2012


Radiohead is definitely prog.
posted by idiopath at 8:09 AM on August 16, 2012


Sometimes it is funny to me that punk is supposed to be a rejection of the pretense of prog.

People giving themselves outlandish stage names and dressing in themed outfits, more interested in attitude and lyrics than musical content as a break from pretense?
posted by idiopath at 8:17 AM on August 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nowadays it hardly make senses to call anyone who can play an instrument or sing without autotune pretentious. The bar is just so very, very much lower. Making pretentious music is almost inexpressibly more authentic than pretending to make music.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:24 AM on August 16, 2012


(sense, dammit, not senses)
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:24 AM on August 16, 2012


I don't buy Dream Theater as modern-day prog... they've always struck me as an evolution of the 1980s "Guys who can play amazingly blazingly fast and are inhumanly technically proficient but play with no soul whatsoever" instrumental hair metal genre.

I guess I half-agree with you. A lot of what DT releases seems to me to be aimless experimentation. But I disagree with you saying that they play with "no soul whatsoever". Many of the songs they created have certainly struck a cord with me (But that is relatively subjective isn't it).

Here's an interesting analysis of their Octavarium album.

Anyways, the more interesting thing about Dream Theater is how they replaced their drummer. They held and recorded tryouts in three episodes: 1, 2 and 3.
posted by Groundhog Week at 8:25 AM on August 16, 2012


To me, this picture says a lot (even though the intent is satirical, of course). Do you want the same old verse-chorus-verse, or do you want a rainbow?
posted by crazy_yeti at 8:25 AM on August 16, 2012


He's not Prog, but I'd argue that middle period Stevie Wonder was heavily Prog influenced in the Talkingbook to Secret Life of plants period.

You could kinda make a similar argument for Curtis Mayfield circa Superfly and a lot of early Earth Wind and Fire.

And agreeing that Radiohead is about as Prog as it gets!
posted by digitalprimate at 8:26 AM on August 16, 2012


They (Tull)wrote an album length single song, complete with a fictitious back story. That puts them squarely in the prog rock camp. Just because there aren't any 10-minute dithering Hammond organ solos doesn't make them any less prog.

Actually they wrote two. Thick, and A Passion Play. Tull got lumped into Prog based on the misconception that Aqualung was a concept album. Ian Anderson's comeback was Thick As A Brick, stating they want a concept album, I'll give em a concept album.

A Passion Play did not start out as a complete album, but was pieced together from abandoned individual songs and themes slated for a different concept album later released by Tull as the "Chateau D'isaster tapes"
posted by Gungho at 8:41 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I bet Sherman Hemsley is smiling down on this thread from his dee-luxe apartment in the sky.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:57 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quoting the Slate article (part 3): [...] Mussorgsky piece that they’d debuted at their first shows— “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Obscure classical music [...]

Since when is "Pictures at an Exhibition" obscure? That's a famous piece!
posted by crazy_yeti at 9:11 AM on August 16, 2012


More problems with this article (from Part 4):

By 1977, Yes and ELP and Genesis were writing shorter pop songs. Less popular, wildly divergent bands like Camel, Caravan, the Soft Machine, and Renaissance went the same route.

Soft Machine writing "short pop songs" in 1977? By 1977 they had turned into a jazz-fusion outfit. I'm starting to get the idea that the author of this series, credited as a "Slate political reporter", has strayed a little too far from his area of knowledge.
posted by crazy_yeti at 9:22 AM on August 16, 2012


Since when is "Pictures at an Exhibition" obscure?

Among classical fans, maybe never, but among people who didn't normally listen to classical, maybe it was relatively obscure until ELP got hold of it. Mussorgsky? Who he?
posted by pracowity at 9:26 AM on August 16, 2012


A round table-talking down we go!

I love Trespass. "Stagnation" and "The Knife" are as good as anything on their later albums, and "White Mountain" is a perfect specimen of the typical painfully earnest prog rock fantasy epic (it's about wolves fighting over who gets to lead their pack, for crying out loud).

Cherry-picked lyrics aside, there was a lot more going on in Gabriel-era Genesis than just impenetrable esotericism. Many of their songs had an easily followable narrative thread and a sense of humor about themselves that, if you ask me, were somewhat lacking in the work of their prog contemporaries.

Oh, and the Carpet Crawlers are spermatozoa. I thought everybody knew that.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:28 AM on August 16, 2012


You can't leave out the Dutch yodel-prog of hocus pocus by focus.
posted by umbú at 9:29 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


pracowity: "among people who didn't normally listen to classical, maybe it was relatively obscure"

The classical listener asks: "Wu Tang Clan? Never head of 'em"

Other shortcomings in the article: The total misrepresentation of RIO, better to leave it out than call it a category for the uncategorizable. Though I am sure the Rock In Opposition guys are happy to be misrepresented in the news media (almost as good for their ends as not being mentioned at all).
posted by idiopath at 9:33 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fans of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis might want to check out their One Week One Band.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:38 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mussorgsky? Who he?

If not for Fantasia, I'd agree with you.
posted by LionIndex at 10:01 AM on August 16, 2012


Listening to this triggered a memory: one of the few CDs I bought for myself (between the point at which I became musically-aware and the point at which Napster opened the floodgates) was a mail-order Tolkien-inspired (what I now recognize as) progressive rock album by Glass Hammer.
posted by alexei at 10:35 AM on August 16, 2012


For me, the original brit classic prog came into full flower with Yes' Close To The Edge, which is a blinding whirr of incredible ideas, stacked one upon the other in a giant heap of glorious noise, and the final nail was put in the coffin by King Crimson's Starless, whose the final impenetrable wall of sound blocks the future out in its entirety.

Crimson re-invented themselves with Belew & Levin, and created a prog/avant garde/new wave hybrid, and most other prog since then has been derivative, though I do love Porcupine Tree, derivations and all, because they're just astoundingly well-crafted songs. Their Floyd Tribute Time Flies moves me to tears.

On of my all-time favories was the oft-overlooked Nectar, who peaked with the near-sublime Remember The Future, which I've recently come back to after a nealy 20-year hiatus, to find that it's held up in a lot of ways.

ELP is talked about a lot in the linked article, but I've always seen them as the bleeding edge of the worst-outcome possible scenarios as prog unwound iteslf into utter pretentiousness and irrelevancy. The get under my skin pretty quickly. ooooooWEEEEEEooooooWEEEEEEoooooo... musical glurge. I'm sorry they became the face of progressive rock, because there's an awful lot of great prog out there that gets sneered at by association with those pin-headed egotists.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:44 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoa, auto-correct on the desktop? *Nektar.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:47 AM on August 16, 2012


Hopefully Wiegel does a great job on Rush and Dream Theater when he gets up to them.
posted by Renoroc at 11:01 AM on August 16, 2012


Gabriel's Genesis stuff is also just awful, but very much par for the course for that period of time and the genre. Consider the the nonsense Jon Anderson was writing over with Yes:

"Battleships confide in me and tell me where you are
Shining, flying, purple wolfhound, show me where you are
Lost in summer, morning winter, travel very far
Lost in musing circumstances, that's just where you are"


Dammit, now I've got Yours is No Disgrace playing back in my head, and it's turned up to 11.

I will never relinquish my love for prog because it saved my life in high school, full stop. And early Genesis is just fine, as is middle period Genesis, too.
posted by jokeefe at 11:04 AM on August 16, 2012


I don't care if this outs me as (even more) uncool (than a typical prog rock fan), but I think this is among the great contemporary prog tunes.

I have never done drugs in my life. I still dig prog. My first encounters with it were not entirely unlike this.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:09 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Beauty begins at the foot of you!
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:11 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


For me, the original brit classic prog came into full flower with Yes' Close To The Edge, which is a blinding whirr of incredible ideas, stacked one upon the other in a giant heap of glorious noise

Gee Mr. Lamarr you talk purdier than a two doller whore. Or a prog rock lyricist.

What a difference a year makes.

Genesis: The Cinema Show-1973, song length 11:09 "I will make my bed
With her tonight, he cries. Can he fail armed with his chocolate surprise?"

Genesis- Counting out time -1974, song lemgth 3:45 "Getting crucial responses, dilation of the pupils. Honey get hip! It's time to unzip, to unzip, zip, zip-a-zip-a-zip. Whipee!"
posted by Gungho at 11:15 AM on August 16, 2012


Gee Mr. Lamarr you talk purdier than a two doller whore.

Hello, handsome, is that a ten-gallon hat or are you just enjoying the show?
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:36 AM on August 16, 2012


Actually, the super-technical term for my elocutions is "bloviating."
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:40 AM on August 16, 2012


Mastodon is prog.

Arguments in favor:
Mastodon did a quadrilogy. Prog.

The quadrilogy is based aroud the elemental themes of Air, Earth, Fire and Water. That also is very Prog.

The Water album, Leviathan, is based on the novel Moby Dick. That's Pretty Prog.

The Earth album, Blood Mountain, features a song about mythological tree creatures called Birchmen partially sung through a vocoder. There is unrest in the forest here, folks. Prog.

Cappillarian Crest: Long-ass technically proficient supertight jam in unusual time-signature. Prog as fucking fuck.

Several songs on several albums longer than 5 minutes and with virtuoso drum solos, and odd time-signatures? Prog, proggy prog prog prog.

Arguments against? Sorry, couldn't hear you. I was progging out to Mastodon, the new Kings of Prog.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:43 AM on August 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Leviathan is pretty amazing.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:53 AM on August 16, 2012


Sherman Hemsley gets down to Nektar's "Show Me the Way."
posted by jonp72 at 12:15 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


But Hendrix was bluesy. The Nice had no use for that. “The basic policy of the group is that we're a European group,” explained lead singer Jackson in a 1968 International Times interview. “So, we're improvising on European structures. Improvisation can be around any form of music, so we're taking European work. We're not American Negros, so we can't really improvise and feel the way they can.”
This describes the true failing of prog rock. It was all in the head, not the gut. I will take some Jack White blues guitar any day.
posted by caddis at 12:45 PM on August 16, 2012


Jack White? I think you misspelled "Son House" :D
posted by Ululator at 1:02 PM on August 16, 2012


(new commenter -- 8 year lurker (yes, 8 years!). Anyway, a Prog post is always right by me! Was a huge fan of ELP, Yes, Floyd, Kansas, King Crimson etc in high school and still am. Genesis came later for me but still the "first 2/3" are what I like.

Found Porcupine Tree via a recent MeFi Prog post (six to eight months ago?) wherein The Mars Volta and other truly proggish and forward-thinking bands were mentioned.

Thanks again, the article in Slate was a nice diversion from writing test cases....
posted by Alewife's Husband at 1:02 PM on August 16, 2012


I've never touched an illegal substance in my life, but I like Prog.
Is there something wrong with my brain?
posted by charred husk at 1:12 PM on August 16, 2012


None of my friends ever understood my prog rock phase. While a mountain of records by bands of exponentially increasing weirdness slash obscurity sat in my frequently-listened pile and jars of high quality cannibinoids sat in my closet (were the two related? the world may never know) most my friends were in their crust punk phase. But in answer to a question everyone has forgotten and no one ever really cared about: Magma, MDK.
posted by mediocre at 1:13 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I know that amongst the prog listening crowd, ELP is like.. the Miley Cyrus of prog. But they were my sort of peek into the rabbit hole, and lo did I follow it downward. Thing is, I never went online to see if it was cool or hip to be really, really, really into these weird records like Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery. So when I eventually did and found that the hipsterati viewed it as decadent and passe, and the proggerati viewed it as bubblegum, I was honestly a bit surprised. But my original opinion that Trans is Neil Young's best work has proved to gain some traction with time, perhaps ELP will as well..
posted by mediocre at 1:29 PM on August 16, 2012


And one last thing.. though I feel that at this advanced stage in the threads existence no one is listening anymore.. Strangely enough, me and my crust punk friends were able to find an awesome middle ground in an oddball group from Southern California called Tarantula Hawk. The linked track is just a part of their album which is all one track, so it doesn't really capture it all that well.. but one awesome thing the album did, the final groove of the album was a captured loop. Which meant it repeated endlessly, and the sound was such that unless you were really paying attention (which after listening to this whole album you almost certainly weren't since the likelihood of being on a powerful amount of psychoactives was relatively high) you would find yourself listening to the single groove for like ten minutes before you noticed it was looping.
posted by mediocre at 1:40 PM on August 16, 2012


I always thought that Shudder To Think was an excellent bridge between old-skool prog & post-punk grunge/alternative.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:57 PM on August 16, 2012


Great post!

I grew up on ELP, and Tarkus' famously incomprehensible lyrics occupied my mind quite considerable.

Worth noting that King Crimson went on to have 3 completely different incarnations from jazzy (Red, essential) to techyfreaky guitar noise (Beat). There's a third version which is current, I've never heard them though so cannot speak to their degree of listenability.

Oh, and USA is a monumental live album that leans much heavier than most of their other recorded stuff.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:11 PM on August 16, 2012


The mp3 audio file format justified itself to me when I was able to acquire (maybe not legally), the entire 29-minute "Karn Evil 9" by ELP in a single file with no breaks.

Finally, "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends" made sense.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:22 PM on August 16, 2012


I draw a distinction between "prog rock" and "prog metal". Rush and Yes are prog rock; Mastadon and Dream Theater are prog metal. Same idea, just heavier.
posted by LordSludge at 2:30 PM on August 16, 2012


I draw a distinction between "prog rock" and "prog metal"

Don't forget Wolverine on the prog metal side...
posted by MikeMc at 2:47 PM on August 16, 2012


But Hendrix was bluesy. The Nice had no use for that. “The basic policy of the group is that we're a European group,” explained lead singer Jackson in a 1968 International Times interview. “So, we're improvising on European structures. Improvisation can be around any form of music, so we're taking European work. We're not American Negros, so we can't really improvise and feel the way they can.”

This describes the true failing of prog rock. It was all in the head, not the gut. I will take some Jack White blues guitar any day.


Maybe this is why I like prog rock but can't stand prog metal. Metal needs feeling -- in particular, it needs Satan -- and prog metal doesn't pay off in that direction. There are plenty of great bands with some complexity to 'em (Mitochondrion come to mind), but the Cynic/Atheist/Mekong Delta stuff just doesn't do it for me (and the less said about Mastodon, the better).
posted by vorfeed at 3:01 PM on August 16, 2012


Henry Cow
posted by Grangousier at 3:03 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just want to second Tool, but I'd start with Lateralus over 10,000 days. When I go see Tool it's always me and the other old Yes fans standing in the back. Of course that was before they started filling stadiums and their damn assigned seating...
posted by Farce_First at 3:05 PM on August 16, 2012


"That keyboardists were suddenly rock gods represented the sea change that progressive music brought to the rock ‘n’ roll scene of the 1970s."

Absolutely. In grade school I was locked into force-fed piano lessons by guitar-hating parents. That's half the reason I had all the above-linked albums within a year of their release. The other half was that the genre they were riffing on was part of the afore-mentioned force-fed repertoire.

"...Improvisation can be around any form of music, so we're taking European work. We're not American Negros, so we can't really improvise and feel the way they can.”

As evidenced by Emerson's ball-sucking, robotic, heartless, soulless but technically perfect renditions of Honky Tonk Train and/or Are You Ready Eddy?"
posted by klarck at 4:17 PM on August 16, 2012


gentle giant - proclamation - parts of which are oddly funky for a prog band

gong - a sprinkling of clouds - this blew my mind the first time i heard it - years ahead of its time

amon duul ii is also a favorite of mine - dance of the lemmings is a weird mix of psychedelia and prog moving towards the intensity of punk

hawkwind - psychedelic warlords - for a "prog" band, they were awfully punky - of course, when you have lemmy for your bass player ...
posted by pyramid termite at 5:16 PM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Someone ought to go back and rewrite or sample the hell out of it. For example, on first listen "Carpet Crawlers" is a lovely song that sounds like it must be about childhood (carpet crawlers) until you discover it's about some crazy shite ... Yeah! If you want a guaranteed hit, skip all that and just play a sample of "The carpet crawlers heed their callers. We've gotta get in to get out..." over and over while some self-absorbed rapper goes on and on about his childhood being rough but now he has a shiny car.

Well, it's not quite that rap song you're looking for, but the Trevor Horn produced Carpet Crawlers 1999 is an interesting remake of the song by the people who recorded it in the first place.

Frankly, I find the evolution of a lot of what I will call "first wave" prog bands interesting. Yes, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, ELP (by then -Palmer, +Powell), and others (Rush, maybe?) took their craft toward pop pretty steadily across the 70s and into the 80s, and then there was this explosion of actually great pop albums by these bands.

Yes - 90215
Genesis - Genesis / Invisible Touch (Say what you will, Invisible Touch is a great pop album.)
Peter Gabriel - So
Rush - Power Windows

And so on. It's quite fascinating to me.

Also interesting is the aforementioned Trevor Horn's influence on a lot of this. Between his involvement with Yes' Relayer album and the development of samplers and sequencers and drum machines which he helped push into the forefront of music production, it seems like a lot of these bands found real inspiration in the idea that they could actually write radio friendly material. And it worked in spades for a lot of them.

As far as other bands go, I'd put forth early Marillion as a pretty proggy band, pretty firmly rooted in the 80s, and fans of middle-era Genesis who aren't familiar with them, I'd suggest checking out their first four albums (with Fish as lead singer), as they contain a lot of echoes of the style of Genesis in that period.

I'd also say that the Boingo album is fairly prog on a lot of levels.

And here is where I go on public record as saying that I adores Yes' Tormato with an undying passion. I don't know what it is about that album, but it fires me up in all kinds of great ways.
posted by hippybear at 6:58 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I have no idea if they are prog or not, but The Flock is one mighty bizarre trip. I keep threatening to do an FPP about them. I'll add it to the list.
posted by hippybear at 7:00 PM on August 16, 2012


This describes the true failing of prog rock. It was all in the head, not the gut.

Proof that prog rock can too be from the gut is left to George Clinton and the parliamenfunkadelic groove thang. (Concept albums, a self developed mythology, long ass jams, huge expensive stageshows: prog as fuck.)
posted by MartinWisse at 1:59 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The final installment of Weigel's Prog Rock Opus. (For some reason I thought it was a four part series. Had I known, I would have held off on the post for a day.)
posted by dortmunder at 3:58 AM on August 17, 2012


Really loving all the prog shoutouts here, many of which I've never heard of. Lots of fun new stuff to listen to!
posted by LordSludge at 1:11 PM on August 17, 2012


This describes the true failing of prog rock. It was all in the head, not the gut.

This is a common critique, but I find it such bullshit. Some prog is very emotional. Hell, Octavarium is about the drummer's struggles with alcoholism. 10,000 Days is a tribute to the singer's mom, who endured the effects of a stroke for 27 years and finally, mercifully dies. John Petrucci can make me cry with a guitar solo. Technical proficiency does not imply a lack of emotion - we've accepted this in classical music for years, why not prog?
posted by LordSludge at 1:20 PM on August 17, 2012


Why does a thread like this have to begin while I was on vacation? Now playing: Caravan's classic For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night.

First, regarding Rush. The new album Clockwork Angels was a concept album with three tracks approaching the dreaded 8 minute mark. Given that they will be selling out arenas in the US this fall, I'd say that the prog sensibility it still vital.

There are dozens of new or at least relatively new bands out there living the spirit. Scandinavia is a hotbed of such acts: Anglagard, Opeth, the Flower Kings. There's the incredible instrumental act The Future Kings of England, Astra, District 97 (which has an American Idol semi-finalist on vocals), O.S.I., Glass Hammer, the incredible Echolyn...

Now not all the old warriors are as nimble and vital as Rush. The current incarnation of Yes lurches through smaller venues and casinos with its second replacement for Jon Anderson and those complex tempos play a bit slower. Ian Anderson's voice is shot all to hell but he managed to keep his fortune and sanity. Genesis hadn't been the Genesis proggers love since Hackett left the band. But Hackett still waves the progressive flag proud and high, is still recording and his latest, Beyond the Shrouded Horizon, was downright incendiary.

Someone mentioned Porcupine Tree's classic In Absentia and that band has been beloved by both the old guard and much younger fans. Steve Wilson has the band on hiatus but his last solo release, http://www.allmusic.com/album/grace-for-drowning-mw0002202455, is at once meditative, melancholy, and melodious.

I would counter the argument that prog is all brain and no heart. While I would argue that some bands get a little too brainy to the point that listening to their music is akin to listening to math (KC and Gentle Giant always strike me this way - your mileage may vary). But just listen to two of the best epics ever: Yes's Close to the Edge and Genesis' Supper's Ready. In the "I Get Up, I Get Down" section of the former, Jon Anderson rides that wall of harmonies with this aching cry that transcends the lyrics and should move all but Jann Wenner and he always was a putz. In the later, Peter Gabriel is on fire throughout but particularly near the end of the epic when Gabriel's character returns to his lover with a stanza that begins "Hey babe, with your guardian eyes of blue" Peter sings it like he's been hanging on the edge for far too long and she is his only chance of redemption. It practically hurts.

For those who want more substantive discussion of such matters, I would urge you to go to Progressive Ears. It's a friendly place although some musical discussions can get pretty heated. I've been hanging out there for years now, and have made some truly worthy friendships there. The current thread on the Slate articles is two pages right now and only going to get bigger.
posted by Ber at 1:50 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd put forth early Marillion as a pretty proggy band

Well, yes - they were the most successful of a whole wave of neo-progressive bands in the early 80s: see also Twelfth Night, I.Q., Pendragon, Pallas as well as early Cardiacs (Fish had them on as a support for one tour, and they were roundly abused; the same thing happened to Peter Hammill when he supported them - poor Fish, it must be terrible when your own fans have no taste) and The Enid (who had started a lot earlier, but were still knocking around in the early 80s).

(Though of these, the only ones I like are Cardiacs, The Enid - who essentially rip of 19th Century orchestral music and are gloriously pompous and overblown - and Twelfth Night who I saw numerous times, though only post-Geoff Mann, which I'm sure an aficionado will tell me is the same as not seeing them at all.)
posted by Grangousier at 2:22 PM on August 17, 2012


Really loving all the prog shoutouts here, many of which I've never heard of.

Let's give some more peeps their props then:

This post by a blogger normally more into leftie politics and beer (and folk music) got me interested in Soft Machine. From there it was a small step to the rest of the Canterbury scene: Caravan (Frex, Gong, Nathional Health, Hatfield and the North, Egg, Pierre Moerlen's version of Gong, Kevin Ayers, Steve Hillage, Daevid Allen and of course the great Robert Wyatt, who started out in the Softs, moved on to form Matching Mole, which was of course a bilingual punne, or play on words: Machine Molle being the French for Soft Machine. Which also says a lot about both the sense of humour in prog and its slight tendency towards pretentiousness.

Though some of the above bands can be very ... clinical, cold and experimental, there is also a very English warmth to them, especially Caravan (the timeless beauty of the English countryside and Gong (drug warriors).

Now one of the things with prog is that it's a genre made for people with obsessive compulsive collecting tendencies, as once you move beyond the well known bands like Yes, ELO, Genesis or Pink Floyd, there are loads and loads of obscure bands from the sixties and seventies with brilliant, barely known master pieces. The more you look, the more you find.

So for example, Collosseum, Gryphon and Greenslade I've only discovered in the past few years, all semi-obscure, though not so obscure as Demon Fuzz, a group of West Indian blokes who made one prog rock album in 1970, Afreaka, which, if you can find it, is brilliant, but got lost in the flood even with John Peel backing them.

Let's not forget Krautrock either: Can, Faust, Neu! (Hallogallo is one of the most brilliant tracks I've heard), undsoweiter.

Or Dutch prog: Focus, Earth and Fire, some Golden Earring, Supersister, enzovoort.

There's so much good stuff out there.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:55 PM on August 17, 2012


This describes the true failing of prog rock. It was all in the head, not the gut.

king crimson - usa - 21st century schizoid man - at about 3.14, robert fripp starts using his guitar as a weapon
posted by pyramid termite at 8:05 PM on August 17, 2012


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