Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Soothing the Savage
I am going to defocus this blog even more now, by spinning a post off of the comments in the last post, which had very little to do with that post itself, but in any case got me thinking. Probably no one was paying attention, but there was a little debate about music, and eventually, we took it outside, so to speak. But now I feel like I have to backpedal, and get off my high horse, and some other clichés. I had suggested that anyone who listened to Porcupine Tree would be certain to love it, and of course that is just not true.
Porcupine Tree is a progressive rock band--or, as it is more commonly known among fans, a "prog" band. Prog is tough to define, and, as always happens when people are passionate about something, there is much disagreement over the definition. There are also a number of subgenres of prog to further confuse things (progmetal! neoprog! goth prog! classic prog!), but generally prog rock is characterized by experimentation, ununsual time signatures, sometimes unusual instruments or unusual ways of playing standard instruments, departure from pop and rock formulas, and songs of epic length (think old Genesis). Prog is an underground thing--dare I say it, a cult thing. It takes very little time for the 1,000-seat theatre at Lehigh University to sell out for the North East Art Rock festival (NEARfest) which took place last month. Many are willing to spend quite a bit for a Patron ticket to ensure their spot for NEARfest, because these people are serious.
But if you ask the person to the left of you and the person to the right of you, chances are neither one of them has heard of prog. That's because not only is prog sort of an acquired taste, you have to want to acquire it. Every once in a while a new person gets introduced and they realize that they've been missing something all their lives. But this is rare. So I was being unfair to expect that this would miraculously occur for all or even a few of my wonderful readers.
(Lest you think that you've never heard of a single prog band, there are a number of them that have made it to the mainstream that might be familiar to you. Examples are Pink Floyd, Rush, and Yes.)
I'm still a little surprised that anyone wouldn't like "Lazarus," the song that was the subject of the last post, being such an emotive and lovely song and all. But I know, we all like different things. My children think the live-action Scooby-Doo films are just as great as the animated material, which I couldn't disagree with more. A family member once described The Simpsons as "stupid," and a part of me died. I guess I just have to get over it...
Although I am a prog fan, I'm not a nutty exclusively prog listener. That should be obvious if you've been following along. To show you that I'm not just about the esoteric, I'm going to link to something that is almost on the other end of the musical spectrum from Porcupine Tree. Check out the Web site for Grey Eye Glances. This is a folkish pop band. What I love about the site is they have a page with actual entire songs, not just clips, to listen to. Or you can go to the sampler page, which has a few of these songs chosen to be introductory. It so happens that two of the members of Grey Eye Glances also play in the prog band echolyn, but obviously they couldn't live by marble rye alone. Some of the songs are just plain fun, some are a bit haunting, I love the musicianship and harmonies, and I can sort of sound almost as good as their singer if I really try. In other words, GEG is singable. Let me know what you think.
Let's swing back again for a sec. Spock's Beard is a prog band, generally thought of by the oxymoron "mainstream prog." Those who judge books by their covers will certainly have things to say about this band's name. But if they sound good, who cares?
For something different, again, I'm repeating the plug for Chris Cornell's album "Scream." I may have turned some people away from it by posting the "Part of Me" video in an earlier entry. It's not the best song in the bunch, and the video is useless unless you happen to think Chris Cornell is sexy (ahem). But the album is really funkin' groovy. It's cheer-up music at its best: the perfect mix of angry and fun. No further YouTubing here; I'll leave that one up to you.
Back on this post I said I might post some more of the short films from Alphaville's Songlines collection. This one is actually more like a music video, in that it feels as if there's no true ending to the story, but again, no band members, just real live ACTORS. I love turning this song up in the car just for the explosive riff that starts it off--a devastatingly beautiful piece of noise that unfortunately gets cut off in the vid--and my son Pumpkin now makes requests for "the LOUD song." Fortunately, I never get sick of it.
I could go on and on, flitting about the musical omniverse, making you start looking around for my mute button. I haven't even touched kids'-music-that's-good-for-adults, timeless classic rock, the 80s music you won't admit you liked, etc. I'm currently creating a sort of ultimate playlist that spans my life and includes all the songs that ever had any significance to me. I promise not to post it (unless you ask, of course). But, I have more tales to tell of the world's worst mother, so watch this space.