Will It Prog? Nov 19
The progressive rock community is a bit like a cult. We’re always looking for new members to indoctrinate with our absurd rules and customs, but we’re also totally cool with simply calling you a heretic and setting you on fire if you don’t want to drink the kool aid. Thus every new band that introduces itself to the public is subjected to this trial by prog, and depending on their music, image, and various intangibles that no one really discusses but we all innately agree upon some how, the band is either forcibly branded with the prog label like cattle or they’re condemned as a source of musical decay, an inferior strand of musical DNA in the progressive master race.
To be fair, progressive rock is not unique in this process. Most niche music genres have their own methods for including or excluding new artists. I do feel though that prog community is exceptional in the sheer scope of artists it’s willing to try to associate the prog tag with. Hip hop, blue grass, jazz, metal, techno, trance, industrial, R&B, basically any genre with the work ‘rock’ in it, classical, hardcore, emo, punk, alternative, I honestly can’t think of a genre that doesn’t have at least one band in it that at some point didn’t also get slapped with a ‘progressive rock’ tag. We’re like the super spoiled kids no one likes in elementary school who invite the entire grade to their birthday party. We don’t actually have many friends ourselves, so we force as many people to be involved with us as possible to make it look like we’re popular. (and HOLY SHIT if you brought a gift we don’t like, you can kiss your turn on that kick-ass moon bounce goodbye).
So today I’m going to look at some of the bands making an impact in popular music and I’ll be asking the all important question, “will it prog?” Is this a band that music nerds are going to claim as their own, a savior of ‘real’ music for the masses, or shun as yet another cancer slowly crushing the vital organs of popular music? (note: according to progressive rock fans, popular music has had terminal cancer for about 40 years now).
Them Crooked Vultures: Super groups almost automatically always get recruited by the prog army. By nature, super groups are pretentious (Hey, I’m an awesome musician, screw my band, I only want to work with other awesome musicians) so the ground is fertile for a pompous progressive rock view point. Also, the odds prog infestation increase exponentially for every member of a classic rock group involved in the project(in this case, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin).
Result: IT WILL PROG. It will prog hard. I will say that, to me, the music I’ve heard from this band sounds like a more straight forward Queens of the Stone Age than anything actually stereotypically progressive rock. How the music actually sounds doesn’t matter though, they’ll be assimilated by the end of the year, unless they sign some kind of exclusive deal with Target, in which case a hit will be put out for Dave Grohl.
Phoenix: A band growing in popularity with hipsters and people who want to be hipsters. You’ve probably heard a song of there’s in a commercial without realizing it, so your opinion of the 2010 Cadillac RX is no doubt linked directly to that of the band. They’re French, and France is basically the lamest country in Europe when it comes to Progressive rock for some reason. Lamer than Sweeden. Seriously.
Result: IT WILL NOT PROG. No question here. It’s not the immediate corporate shilling (For instance Porcupine Tree has been played on MTV multiple times) or even the hipster association (see: The Decemberists). What it comes down to is that France is the only place in the world that can out-pretentious progressive rock fans. At least that’s one battle they can claim they’ve won.
Cage the Elephant: Cage the Elephant reminds me of Sublime, replacing the southern California influences and replacing them with Kentucky drawl. Their popularity has been steadily growing since they played some big festivals (Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo), tv spots (Letterman), stuck their big single up for free on iTunes, and lent it as an opening theme for a videogame. They also look like they haven’t come out of their parent’s garage in 10 years, making them ripe for the prog-ing.
Result: IT WILL NOT PROG. The music is just too generic to catch the attention of the public, and I keep finding reports of emotionless, sloppy live shows, something prog fans will NOT tolerate. They ARE being tolerated by the jam band and festival scene apparently, so the hippies can have them!
Passion Pit: Another hipster band, using heavy doses of electronics and synths to cover up the actual guitar/bass/drums being used on stage (simple formula: acoustic guitar and sounds controlled with a keyboard or iPhone=hipster. Drums and bass that aren’t produced by a computer=not hipster). Those traditional instruments are actually there though, I swear. Also, I get the feeling that I’m listening to rejected and remixed Sesame Street tunes listening to their material. This is not a criticism.
Result: IT WILL PROG. Their vocalist sings like his balls got ripped off. Automatically this lands them in progressive rock territory. Also, with lyrics like ‘Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your hair’ I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been stealing their lyrics from the same book of stories and rhymes that most early 70’s progressive rock groups were using.
Hopefully you learned something by looking into this crystal ball. Progressive rock has the ability to sneak up and steal your favorite bands when you aren’t looking, so be on your guard, lest you wake up and find that all of your music has been progged during the night.