Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Cheers for your messages *.

Yes, Prog and its negative reactors. Even that's a development, though; as it used to be missed out altogether - with pithy televisual histories going from, say, Woodstock directly to the Pistols. Maybe one might be treated to five seconds footage of those lorries with 'Emerson', 'Lake' and 'Palmer' on the top, prompting one to mutter 'trio of t***s' to order. But, hell, I love lots of stuff from that era, even today.I even think it is infinitely more dangerous than Punk; indeed, in an Adorno / Debord sense, Prog seems successfully resistant to reification ... unlike Punk, that is, which has been thoroughly tamed by Capitalism and its historians. Even Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces - admittedly a work of literary delusion - serves only to render Punk as a kind of 1970s neo-Dadaist recurring historical tantrum. I'm paraphrasing stuff I've thought about seriously for thirty years, but Punk's lapse into the safety-net of irony and moddish urban cool spelled an end of Modernity - progression, progress - in mainstream music. After Punk, one could just not be seen to be too serious, have too much technique, or be dealing with ideas. I think of that Buzzcocks solo - Shelly's one note, him staring defiantly into the camera. Thing is, like most of that brood, he was right there with his one note at the summit of his abilities. So, one was simultaneously seeing a cultural statement - valid, iconoclastic at the time - and a technical limitation which limited Shelley's options, in such away as to throw suspicion onto his action and to undermine it as a piece of political theatre. Worse, I think, is, now, when repeated, it's as bland and quaint as an ASDA commercial. Meanwhile, the exchanges between Patrick Moraz and Steve Howe during the instrumental sections of The Gates of Delirium... as dangerous and challenging as they were in the mid-70s. One could argue that overt technique means one is similarly limited - insofar as one is prompted to continuously demonstrate it. But the best musicians from Prog - here, I'd cite Fred Frith - deal with varieties of minimalism just as well as they deal with maximalism. Because of their application to progress, personal betterment and all that, they do this intentionally - is my key point; whereas Shelly, who has not improved one jot in over thirty years, plays in a limited fashion as a product of limitation itself. Personally, I can see no point being intentionally and artificially crap at something. That's not to say, I like the unmusical excesses of Steve Vie, Yngwie Malsteam (I had to Google spelling!) et al; I don't at all. At a push, I'd sooner listen to The Buzzcocks. In some sense, Prog went underground in about 1979. It went into stuff like Magazine, I think; into Killing Joke eventually; even more eventually, as you say, it emerged as Radiohead, as well as Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and so on. It also went into The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and it became hideously retro - a kind of heritage industry - in awful s***e like Marrilion. I remember, for instance, the Yes of Drama - with Trevor Horn of The Buggles singing (an interesting clash of paradigms, worth discussion in its own right) - trying to sell that LP on the strength of its heaviness. In one sense, bringing The Buggles in was an amazingly iconoclastic, postmodern move. Pity the music was so poor. Other Proggers got into technology - justifiably as a way to make continued sense of the notion of progress, I'd argue; but, secretly, also to appear contemporary, relevant. This made for nightmarish technological indulgence; and, as technology does, immediately dates anything made between, say, 1982 and 1989. Again, I'm paraphrasing, but perhaps some sense of Prog-style progress returned with, of all things, Nirvana and the Grunge scene; and that, by-the-by as it morphed into a more diffuse 90s scene, made it ok-ish to be seen to care about progress again. Here, one gets Radiohead, Godspeed, Killing Joke's 'Extremities' LP. Of course, under the radar, things just went on as they did. Yet, just like The Beatles kind of killed off the Trad Jazz scene, Punk did make it impossible for Proggers to ply their trade. Serious if it's your livelihood. Thing is, I always get the sense that commentators like Reynolds - a journalist, not an historian, of course - are dressing up their journalism as history. True inquiry negates personal taste. But then that's idealism!
Best wishes,


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