I’ve been listening to “recommendations” on last.fm recently, for the first time in a while. As before, it tends to overplay the same small subset of bands too much, including rather too many very similar-sounding power-metal bands and NWOBHM also-rans with the word “Witch” in their title. One other act who keep coming up is a European prog band. Their last.fm Wiki description is a cut-and-paste from Prog Archives describing them as being in the style of classic neo-prog bands like Marillion, IQ and, er, Pendragon. Which is the sort of thing to make you fear the worst.
I won’t name the band, but I have to say I wasn’t impressed by what I heard.
The singer sounds as though he wants to be Fish, but without the charisma. The guitarist tries to be Steve Rothery, only without a fraction of the talent. It’s all there; the widdly solo on a 1980s synth, the portentous spoken-word section, even some sub-Pink Floyd FX. The lack of originality might not have mattered so much had the songwriting been great, but sadly, it’s very very ordinary. Bands like this are to prog-rock what The Kooks are to indie.
If bands like The Kooks are labelled as “landfill indie”, then this is surely landfill prog. The stuff that falls well, well below the Sturgeon threshold.
This isn’t a “prog” versus “progressive” thing by the way; that’s something that always degenerates into a “my music is better than your music” pissing contest. The real problem with bands like this is not that they’re “prog” rather than “progressive”, it’s simply that they’re not very good. Neo-prog, when done well, can be great. Bands like IQ or Magenta demonstrate this. They might still wear their influences on their sleeves sometimes, but they can write strong original material with enough of their own identity to be far more than a derivative pastiche.
Which is something the landfill indie bands conspicuously fail to do.