Tuesday, October 06, 2009

2009 - The Year Prog Got Its 9/8 Groove Back

This is something that I've long suspected would take place. In a sense I'm a bit surprised it took so long.

You see my friends, for the last 30-some-odd-years mainstream music was taken away from the true artists and given to big business. Somewhere in the late-70s the big record labels decided that it would be much easier to sell oodles of records if the music was stripped of all creativity and unleashed the so called "punk revolution". This, of course, was nothing but a scam. Unfortunately the average person loves a good scam. Punk took off and Prog groups were left to either strip their music of what made it so interesting (Yes, Genesis) or disappear off the face of the planet (Gentle Giant). Some groups were able to keep innovating during this period (the 80s) but most either sold out or gave up.

For the next three decades corporations ruled the music world. They used their ever growing media empires to brainwash and control a few generations of music fans into thinking that it was hip and cool to sound, dress and act the same as everyone else. Innovations were frowned upon. The tag of "Pretentious" was hastily slapped on any group that attempted to break the tight formulaic restraints placed on them by the record companies. The outlets that reached the masses, radio and television, became swamped with same-sounding music and generic composition. How could a young music fan even comprehend the possibilities unearthed by the Prog giants of old if all he/she was exposed to was three minute songs all structured the same?

Then the Internet happened. Suddenly the corporations couldn't control the music the public heard. Young persons (such as myself) could discover that, yes indeed, you could write a song longer than 5 minutes. In discovering the adventurous music of the early 70s a whole new world was opened up. Music from the radio seemed all too boring. Every new hit single sounding like the last. Why limit music? The human ear can hear so much sound why does everything sound the same? These are the sort of questions that lead myself and many of the same era to discover Prog Rock online.

It has taken a few decades, but finally bands that don't have the benefit of huge corporate backing and endless radio play are showing up on the album charts. Porcupine Tree's most recent and most successful album to date is the perfect example.

In my next post I will take a look at the unlikely success of The Incident. I'll review the album and examine how its success and the success of other adventurous artists are signaling a new era of music. I'll conclude by quoting a track from the Frank Zappa release QuAUDIOPHILIAc:

"Once upon a time, a record company had A&R people in it who would take a chance, make a decision, use their gut reaction, sign a group, and see what they could do with it. Okay? That was, whoa, a long time ago. It's not that way anymore. All decisions about who get signed and what happens to the record are made by these drooling little midrange accountants. And everything is based on the numbers games in there. And the taste of the accountants is what is ruling the mass media. It's all just the dollars and cents of exchange. And if you wanna make music that you believe in, the chances of doing it on a major label basis are nil, because they're all so frightened. Everybody's there trying to protect their job. And it's easy-- it's easier to look like a wise executive by saying no to something if it's just the most minutely fringe-oid in terms of content.

The horrible part of it is the artists who are feeding this ecological chain stop making songs they believe in and start making product that they know will be airable. And they change the style of what they're doing to fit within the narrow framework that is the contemporary accepted norm for suitable, radio-sounding music. And anything that comes outside of that norm doesn't go on the air, you don't hear about it, you don't know about it. Right now there's probably hundreds of artists in the United States making great sounds and great music. You'll never hear it. You'll never find out about it "
- Frank Zappa

2 comments:

Jen Bear said...

Good to see your back in business.

"Punk took off and Prog groups were left to either strip their music of what made it so interesting (Yes, Genesis) or disappear off the face of the planet (Gentle Giant). Some groups were able to keep innovating during this period (the 80s) but most either sold out or gave up."

You hit the nail right on the head for that one.

Look forward to your review on The Incident

Peter Nilsson said...

Now I'm glad I never purged the Prog Rock feed from my RSS reader :-)

Good to have you back!