As an independent blogger, I was sometimes annoyed that so many prog bands sent their press releases announcing new records, tours or even new lineups exclusively to Prog Magazine, who would frequently announce things before they appeared on the band’s own websites. But I understand why the bands all did it; Prog has a reach no independent blogger could match, and if exclusively was their price, it was a price worth paying as far as the bands were concerned.
Prog’s sudden and unexpected demise leaves a huge hole.
Independent bloggers can’t hope to fill a hole that big, but we’ll try to do whatever we can. I try ro curate the news section of this site rather than copy-pasting every single press release that shows up in my email. But it goes without saying that any of the bands who feature on this site regularly (You know who you are, and so do our readers) won’t be ignored.
Prog Magazine have a listicle that attempts to show the history of prog in 50 albums. It begins with the proto-prog of the mid-60s, continues with the defining albums of the greats of the 70s and ends with some of the groundbreaking redefinitions of the modern era.
Only Pink Floyd get more than one entry, and that’s because the Barratt-led 60s psychedelic rockers and the Waters-led stadium act were really two quite different beasts. You could quibble over the relative lack of women; though Curved Air, Renaissance, Fairport Convention and Kate Bush all get a mention there’s nobody from more recent eras. What about Nightwish, perhaps? Or are they not considered prog enough?
Who’s missing? Aside from Nightwish, the most obvious omission is probably The Mars Volta.
What do you think? Who do you think is missing, and is there anyone who doesn’t deserve to be there?
Norwegian symphonic proggers The Wimdmill made quite an impression as the opening act of the final day of the 2014 Cambridge Rock Festival. The six piece featuring flute and sax alongside twin guitars and vintage keyboard noises went down well enough to be invited back again in 2016, where they again went down a storm.
To date, the band have recorded two albums, the second of which, “The Continuation” became part of the festival merch desk haul following their 2014 appearance. It’s an album that’s received regular plays ever since.
The short instrumental title track sets the mood, a melodic number with the main theme alternating between flute and lead guitar. The lengthy “The Masque” is a song of two parts, a pastoral opening section then an extended instrumental workout in which every member bar the rhythm section takes multiple solos. After an opening in a similar vein to the title track, “Not Alone” builds into a big soaring ballad. The cod-reggae of “Giant Prize is perhaps the only dud, but at just over three minutes it’s mercifully short. Then we’re into the grand finale of “The Gamer”, a sometimes completely bonkers 24 minute epic which mercilessly takes the piss out of obsessive video game players who never go outside.
This is old-school retro-prog with little concession to contemporary sounds, going from flute-led pastoral passages to occasional irruptions of big band jazz. What they do have is a strong sense of melody, which if anything is most prominent in some of the flute and guitar lines rather than the vocals. This a band who are not shy about embracing the odd cliché; we’ve even got a minimoog solo consisting of minor-key arpeggios in 9/8 time at one point. But they’re also a band who do it well enough to be able to get away with it. There is something about them that rises above generic Euro-prog.
Both albums are listed on sale on the band’s website, though it doesn’t look as if it’s been updated recently, though their facebook page is still active. The band are currently working on a third album.
It was suggested on Twitter than the revival of progressive rock over the past decade and a bit was a consequence of the death of John Peel.
I’m not buying it.
It’s true that Peel, who famously dismissed Emerson Lake and Palmer as “A waste of talent and electricity” wasn’t a big friend of progressive rock. Any progressive band he did champion in the early days he dropped like a stone as soon as punk came along. And it’s also undeniably true that he had an enormous and possibly unhealthily excessive influence as a gatekeeper across several decades.
But the timing simply doesn’t support the hypothesis. Peel died in 2004, and the progressive rock revival began in the late 1990s with the emergence of bands from Porcupine Tree to Mostly Autumn. Surely the revival of a grassroots progressive scene has more to do with the rise of the internet allowing music fans and artists to bypass gatekeepers altogether? And possibly the 90s peak of Britpop was a factor too; that was a revival of precisely the sort of one-dimensional guitar pop that the original generation of progressive rock was a response to.
Anyway. I’m sure Peel would be playing bands like The Fierce and The Dead and Knifeworld if he was still alive.
Some thoughts struck me about the Cambridge Rock Festival back in August, which saw some discussion on Twitter.
There were one or two very young bands, such as The Mentulls, playing music in a very traditional classic rock style dating from before any of them were born. But the audience was overwhelmingly middle-aged, old enough to remember the heyday of blues-rock and prog from the first time around.
You see a lot of this in the progressive rock world. There are plenty of young bands like Haken, Maschine or Synaesthesia. Maybe it’s just an artefact of the festivals where I’ve seen them, but there don’t seem to be many of their own generation in the audiences. And the blues-rock scene is even worse. It’s as if anyone under the age of 35 who actually loves “old” music is already in a band.
As the existing audience continues to grey, who will replace them when they’re too old and infirm to get out to gigs?
Maybe I’m just being pessimistic here. Perhaps the bands would rather establish a niche than compete in a much more crowded market playing generic contemporary indie or pop. And maybe an audience of fiftysomethings whose kids have grown up and left home will actually age out more slowly than an audience of twentysomethings most of whom will drop out of music fandom when they get married and have kids?
What do you think?
Prog Magazine has attempted to compile a list of The 10 Sexiest Prog Songs. You can argue whether or not the songs chosen fit the theme or no, but this throwaway line did rather stick in the throat.
These days, of course, prog has got well sexed up with the proliferation of scantily clad females fronting acts such as Touchstone, Mostly Autumn, The Reasoning, Panic Room and beyond.
It’s hard to read that line without it coming over as gross, sexist and a little bit creepy. The implication is to reduce talented musicians and songwriters to eye-candy for male audiences. The frontwomen of the bands mentioned above deserve better.
It does make you wonder if the author of that article has ever seen the likes of Touchstone or Panic Room live. Checking the byline, it’s by someone who’s definitely been seen at their gigs, and really ought to know better.
As one regular commenter to this blog said on another forum:
If he thinks those people are scantily clad, he clearly doesn’t get out enough. He should come and walk round Newcastle on a Friday night.
Fellow prog fan Andy Hall posted this on Twitter earlier today, taken in Sainsburys.
Prog Magazine editor Jerry Ewing was not impressed with his illustrious magazine being placed next to one about toy trains. I do wonder if the editor of Hornby Magazine feels the same way about his mag being next to one dedicated to songs about Hobbits?
The first reaction for any self-respecting prog fan ought to be “Old King Coal was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he“. But it’s unlikely that many progressive rock fans are aware that Prog Magazine’s cover star is actually a model railway enthusiast.
Of course, if you’re one of those people who goes to both prog gigs and model railway exhibitions, you will realised that the attendance is drawn from the same demographic. Execpt that model railway exhibitions have even fewer woman.
Of all the musical events of 2015, “The Pope releases bonkers prog-rock album” is not something I would have predicted. You can listen to it here.