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 clich├ęs. 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.


Frank said...

12teq, if I may...I read through the music discussion in the comments, and I wonder why you call it a debate. I mean, unlike your friends who refused to even listen to Eastern Bloc (which, I agree, is a kick-ass song), Shtuey actually listened to Porcupine Tree at your suggestion. With an open mind, it seems. Isn't that mostly the goal here?

(and if you're reading, Shtuey, the lady hath turned me on to your blog...great stuff on Israel/Palestine of late)

Shtuey said...

Okay, I'm halfway, or more than halfway down, and I want to say at the outset that I doff my hat to whom or whatever is responsible for the name Spock's Beard. It's brilliant.

Shtuey said...

Okay..solid chunky bassline...can I have a little more bass in my monitor, please? Am I insane, but wouldn't that intro be better with a hammond B3 with all the trimmings? A fog machine and drama fans would have been nice...

I stand by my statement regarding the name Porcupine Tree. For my summation I wish to present the following closing argument: Spock's Beard. Even if they sucked so completely they caused in implosion in the fabric of space, I would still give 'em major points for the name.

Other suggestions for sale: Voluminous Ratbag; Cheese Danish Express; Mallard; Pouch; Steep Embankment; Plank; and I'm particularly fond of this one: Kasha's Revenge.

Frank, thank you for pointing out that I did indeed listen to the band at 12's request, despite the fact that they were already presaddled with the name burden.

And thank you for your patronage at my little corner of the Titanic. I'm glad you're enjoying.

Frank said...

You don't mind the hijack, do you Madam? More ticks in your comment column....

Shtuey, I also listened to you on blogradio and was wondering, are you a history teacher or something? I found myself wanting to pull out a spiral-bound and take notes. I told 12T she should get you on retainer for remedial politics. But she's in "news denial," whatever that means.

Back to the music, I listened to Grey Eye Glances ("Big Red Boat"). It is really fun stuff, though I don't think the singer's really all that.

I'm actually kind of interested in the playlist. Your iPod must suffer from internal conflict ;)

And I've always thought Musing Ooze would be a good band name.

12tequilas said...

Okay, I'm not feeling well today, so forgive me if I sound like...well, like I'm not feeling well today.

Franklin, I actually think Musing Ooze would be a great name for a BLOG. That's not a hint, at all.

You're right--I guess "debate" was not exactly the right word. (And didn't I acknowledge the fact that you listened Mr. S.? I am grateful, truly.) Eh, I get defensive sometimes for no good reason. Okay, I had a legit reason or two in that I refuse to believe that Steve Wilson would ever choose an inferior instrument, and some bands, like some people (no one here) have weird names but you meet them and it ceases to matter.

I don't mind; you may hijack away. I tend to be softspoken so I'm used to discussions going on around me and not getting a word in. But remember, I've got a bit of control here at ATG HQ ;)

But let's not speak of my news denial, mmmkay?

Shtuey said...

I put in a comment, but I think the blog ate it.

Frank, I'm glad you enjoyed that show. I think I did a bit of disservice to the listeners at one point though when I said that the majority of Israelis are against the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. I meant to qualify that with the fact that they've seen the results of what happens when they withdraw from territories like Gaza and Lebanon. Land for peace is lie and they understand that now. With the current PA leadership still rejecting Israel as the Jewish homeland, and their continued desire to take all the land from "the river to the sea," it is becoming the more common view that allowing a hostile state being created there is essentially suicide. If their body politic had peaceful coexistence as it's raison d'etre it would be a different story entirely.

I'm not a history teacher, though at one point I considered it a possible career option. What I am is an avid student of history. The majority of the books I read are historical. My bedside stack currently has "John Adams," "1776," collected works of Thomas Paine (can you tell I like early American history?), and a bio of Michael Collins. I'm also getting back into ancient history; Polybius, Thucydides and such. But if you asked me what's on the NYT bestseller list, I wouldn't have a clue. Fiction doesn't get me as much as looking at stuff that actually happened and why.

As far as music goes, I've been really into Middle Eastern artists over the last few years. Omar Farouk Tekbilek, Rabih Abou Khalil, Ghazal, and Axiom of Choice are some of my favs. I also really like Turkish classical. There's quite a bit that was written by Jewish composers as they were often in the employ of the sultans.

Frank said...

Well, the Lady Tequila told me that your show would be an excellent (and understandable) overview and it was--the best I've seen/heard, and I'm kind of an Internet junkie.

But she also told me I have to stop feeding your ego, so, that's it for now ;)

12tequilas said...

Native American bamboo flute music. Another favorite.

Kathy M said...


This world's a divided place....

12tequilas said...

Yes, Kathy, it is.

We're awaiting you.

Kim said...

Heh... I have fallen victim to this mentality time and time again; I am often in the car listening to something that has me feeling almost ecstatic and thinking that I want to share it with the world... because I cannot possibly understand why anyone would not be moved by it.

Of course, then someone listens and says "this just sounds like that other band." or "why is this guy so moody, it's a turnoff" etc etc. The eye of the beholder, so to speak.

But somehow I never cease being surprised!