Landfill Prog

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.

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4 Responses to Landfill Prog

  1. Chuk says:

    Oh my god — “prog” is not just short for “progressive” but the two actually cover different genres?

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Some people claim “prog” (Bands that sound like the progressive rock bands from the 70s) and “progressive” (bands that are trying to do something new and original in the spirit of the progressive rock of the 70s) are two separate things. But I don’t buy that argument, because in practice it’s near impossible to state which bands fall into which genre. So “Prog” just becomes the dumping ground for bands whose music is formulaic and derivative. Which is why I call phooey on the division.

  3. PaulE says:

    A few thoughts …
    Some people hear “influences” and immediately issue the “derivative” condemnation. Who knows how they manage to find any music to listen to. It all has influences.

    It seemed that Indie was doomed to a rapid burnout because so many commentators were determined to use “new” as a synonym for “good” – a recipe for a revolving door. No wonder we heard so much landfill.

    If people do want to split Prog from Progressive then I think the Prog section will still contain plenty that is good (as well as bad, as you described). And Sturgeon still holds, so both sections have the obligatory 90% tripe!

  4. Tim Hall says:

    The best bands always manage to transcend their influences, and do something creative with those influences. The worst bands simply remind you of how much better their influences were than they are.

    And the trouble with Landfill Indie is that all the bands fell into the second category; they sounded like third-rate retreads of The Kinks or The Jam, without a single creative idea of their own.