Prog rock

Never admit that your band is prog – it’s the kiss of death

Sensible prog-rock bands try to ensure no one ever realises they play prog. What happens when you are deemed a prog band is that you are condemned to the margins – little radio airtime, few TV appearances, barely any coverage in the mainstream press – because it has been decided you exist solely for the delectation of a tribe that baffles the rest of the world. Once non-proggers have decided you are prog, that’s it. There is no way back for you. Just collect your Campaign for Real Ale membership card, go home and practise your drum solos. Once non-proggers have decided you are prog, that’s it. There is no

Has the whiff of Spinal Tap: Jethro Tull’s The Zealot Gene reviewed

Grade: C+   I bought the ‘seminal’ Jethro Tull double album Thick as a Brick from a secondhand shop when I was nearing my 13th birthday. I played it once and then wrote off the £1.85 of my pocket money with buyer’s grave remorse. Sometimes, when the yearning for that much better decade, the 1970s, overwhelms me I take it out of my vinyl collection as a salutary corrective: remember those ten years also gave us Baader-Meinhof, Idi Amin, the IRA and Jethro Tull. If folkish prog is on offer, I prefer the Strawbs, even if Dave Cousins is clearly a lot dimmer than Jethro’s idiosyncratic and likeable Ian Anderson.

‘I like upsetting people’: Steven Wilson interviewed

Steven Wilson is going about becoming a pop musician entirely the wrong way. For one thing, he’s into his fifties, not typically the point in life at which budding chart-botherers launch their assault on hearts and minds. For another, in an age in which pop stardom and identity politics have become entwined — in cultural discourse, at least, even if not necessarily in your teenager’s listening habits — he has everything going against him. ‘I come from a very well-adjusted family. I’m heterosexual. I’m white.’ Of course, Wilson doesn’t really expect to be competing against Stormzy and Dua Lipa and Cardi B. His new album, The Future Bites, is a

Epic prog rock without the widdly-woo solos: Mogwai at the Tramway reviewed

You very possibly know the music of the Glaswegian band Mogwai, even if you don’t think you do. You might well have not listened to a note of their ten studio albums, their three live albums, or their four compilations. You may never have seen one of their pulverisingly loud live shows, or heard them on BBC 6 Music, their natural home. But you may well have heard them on TV, either as background music, or on one of their commissioned soundtracks — seven of them now, including the current Sky Atlantic mob series ZeroZeroZero. It’s hardly surprising that one of their soundtracks was for the French TV show Les

‘You can’t have opinions any more’: Rick Wakeman interviewed

‘Classic rock’ is a rather fusty old oxymoron, but then the term ‘classic’ is applied these days to chocolate bars and that most in-demand of consumer undurable, lavatory paper, so I suppose one shouldn’t complain. Covid-19 will probably be remembered as a ‘classic virus’ one day not too soon, when there are other more baleful new-wave viruses with spiky hair pogoing around. ‘Classic rock’, meanwhile, is a term applied to the sort of chest-beating rawk that people of my generation admire: the Who, Bad Company, Blue Oyster Cult insisting, in timely fashion, that we should embrace death, and Lynyrd Skynyrd informing us, with unforeseen irony, that they can fly, free

Virtuosic but slight – always prog’s problem: The Pineapple Thief’s latest reviewed

Grade: B– Of all the various subdivisions in that wheezing and crippled phenomenon that we call rock music, prog has fared better than most, spawning its own devilish offspring in math rock and post-rock. Why? Maybe we are more amenable to bombast and pretension these days. Or perhaps new studio technology lends itself to the genre — hell, you can hear prog time signatures in top ten hits. Maybe more to the point, prog offers a broader avenue than, say, heavy metal or punk. Prog is often what bands end up doing even if that’s not what they think they’re doing: Radiohead, Muse — even Arcade Fire or the National.

The problem with livestreaming heavy metal? No moshpits

There was only so long anyone could put up with the live musical performances of the early days of lockdown: musicians in their living rooms, performing stripped-back versions of their songs in broadcasts that froze or stuttered. The time would come, inevitably, when everyone wanted more. Viewers would want something more closely approximating a full show; musicians would want to be paid. Laura Marling was early through the gates: last month, she promoted her latest album with two concerts at the Union Chapel in London, played to an empty hall but streamed for UK and US audiences. There was a certain excitement about it all: here was a way for