In Prog We Trust: Five Progressive Rock Bands You Hate, But Shouldn't

prog-myung.jpg
Photo by groovehouse
John Myung of Dream Theater is better than your favorite band's bass player.
There are some forms of music that struggle to find critical acclaim while others are loved by critics but universally dismissed by the public. Then, there is another group that, despite a loyal and sometimes massive cult following, are disliked by critics and everyday music fans alike.

Meet prog-rock, the Rodney Dangerfield of music.

For more than 40 years, progressive rock music has survived on the adoration of a fiercely loyal group of fans, but languished in the purgatory of critical acclaim. Critics, on the whole, don't like complex music. The simpler and more direct the better. Add in lyrics that have more in common with epic poems than the Rolling Stones and insult is piled on injury.

But in the last 10 years, with the rise of independent music, it seems like there has also been a rise in really noisy rock that often receives praise for the very oddity and complexity that relegates progressive music to the world of Dungeons & Dragons.

I decided to put together a list of five classic prog rock bands and why you shouldn't hate them as much as you do along with a comparison to a modern indie band you probably like that is more similar to these prog rockers than you may think.

DREAM THEATER

Why they are hated: Really complex metal music.
Why they shouldn't be: John Myung and Mike Portnoy
Modern comparison: The Mars Volta

I know it isn't terribly popular to be great at your instrument these days. Most musicians don't even care enough to stick to one instrument in the same band. If I got a buck for every indie band member that switches instruments more than once during a set, I'd be making a decent living.

But the original rhythm section for Dream Theater is a perfect example of honing your craft is a good idea. You don't have to join some neo-classical prog-metal band, but you could if you wanted to, unlike many of your contemporaries.


GENESIS

Why they are hated: Phil Collins
Why they shouldn't be: Peter Gabriel
Modern comparison: Death Cab for Cutie

It's hard to believe the same band that did "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" churned out the guy that wrote the Tarzan soundtrack tunes, but it's true. However, that band also brought us Peter Gabriel, who has created some of the most interesting and important music of the last 30 years.

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15 comments
Mikej413
Mikej413

I think maybe Coheed and Cambria would be a better modern equivalent for RUSH than Smashing Pumpkins. I don't hate any of the bands on the list though. It's about time modern bands who aren't playing overtly prog rock are influenced by the older classic prog bands.

Ariesone
Ariesone

Rush deserves way more respect than the currently have. Their music is well-crafted, the lyrics are often poetic and beautiful, and they don't pander to the public by dumbing it down. Forty+ years and they are still going strong. I love Rush

Simon Fay
Simon Fay

You lost me with Dream Theatre who seem little more than the unmusical super-chops machines that the old guard were accused of being (but who thankfully had other strings to their bow). 

Guest
Guest

"If you can't give it up for Rush at this point, you're just bein' a dick." - South Park co-creator, Matt Stone.

Highwing54
Highwing54

Um ... wasn't it Elton John who did the "Lion King" music?  Collins did the music five years later for "Tarzan."  Methinks you have your Disney's mixed up.

Big prog head here, listening since the summer of 1977, when ELP's "Works," Floyd's "Animals," Yes's "Going for the One" and Tull's "Songs from the Wood" all landed within months of each other.  Throw in Rush's "A Farewell to Kings," and it was a magic time indeed.

Carapace
Carapace

Drop Dream Theater and add King Crimson and you may be on to something. Because Dream Theater genuinely blows.

Progman
Progman

I liked Rush and at the time they were always known as a hard rock band. Even though they had some longer ambitious pieces, they were always a hard rock band, not a progressive rock band.

For progressive rock check out Genesis prior to 'And then there Were Three,' Yes before '90125,' Emerson Lake and Palmer before 'Love Beach'; and the following bands: Gentle Giant, Happy the Man, Caravan, Camel, Renaissance, Premiata Forneria Marconi, King Crimson, Banco, UK, Pink Floyd, Locanda delle Fate, and more recent bands like Ozric Tentacles, IZZ, Glass Hammer, early Porcupine Tree, Ben Craven, My Brother the Wind, Secret Saucer, Flower Kings, Kotebel, early Transatlantic, Ole Lukkoye, and lots more.

MadMac
MadMac

This genre, (and Rush specifically) for lack of a better word was also called thinking man's rock back in the day. That desgination seemed pretentious when I was a pimply-faced kid. Granted, I didn't get glam rock or hair metal or Metalica for that matter. So what did I know?

But when several girls in my sixth grade class ended the year pregnant and the boys were more likely to end up in juvie than highschool, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll seemed a little silly. Everyone I knew had a parent out of work. You could count on half the kids that started class moving out of the neighborhood before Christmas holiday. Or, in my case, you could count on moving repeatedly over the course of the year. MTV didn't do prog rock but KLOL played Rush and Yes in heavy rotation. That Victor Hugo vibe resonated with me.

Hearing Dream Theater for the first time was like a phone call from an old friend. 

I still don't know that I think any deeper than anyone else. But when I see guys my age (40+) acting like frat-boy wankers over Gn'R and Van Halen, while 13% of the country is out of work, I still find prog rock more relevant if not less offensive to my sensibilities.

Good article, Mr. Balke.

Mikej413
Mikej413

@Ariesone  As a pretty huge RUSH fan I have to say I think RUSH has finally gotten the respect they deserve. THey are now in the R&RHOF(not that that means a whole lot in and of itself but at least it shows how loyal their fans are). Also, after they put out a dvd(Beyond the lighted stage which is excellent)I have to say I don't really feel it's still cool to poke fun at RUSH or prog in general anymore. Maybe that's wishful thinking on my part but I truly feel that the tides are starting to turn(finally).

Mikej413
Mikej413

@Guest Yeah, that's from the RUSH dvd "beyond the lighted stage" and I pretty much agree with that statement. It's one thing to not like a band but to not give them the respect they deserve is just wrong. It's like saying the Beatles were crappy and untalented instead of saying you don't like them.

Mikej413
Mikej413

@Highwing54 Funny because that's around the time when punk supposedly "killed" prog or at least helped to make it go waaaaay underground(until relatively recently anyway).

Jeff
Jeff

You are right. Thanks. I was actually thinking Lion King II, which is mistakenly referenced alongside Phil Collins songs.

MadMac
MadMac

"Um ... wasn't it Elton John who did the "Lion King" music?  Collins did the music five years later for "Tarzan."  Methinks you have your Disney's mixed up."

Can't speak for the author but it all sounds the same to me. "A Farewell to Kings," was the second Rush cassette I bought. Know what I'll be listening to on my drive home.

Mikej413
Mikej413

@Progman I am a fan of most of the bands you mentioned. However, I wouldn't suggest that anything after 1978 by those bands you mentioned is crap and that's kind of what you did. Not all prog is great and not all non prog is crap as much of a prog fan I am. To your list I would add maybe Grobschnitt, Eloy, Spock's Beard, Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, Strawbs, Van der Graaf Generator, Nektar, Barclay James Harvest, Amon Duul 2, Gong, Focus, Ange, Gosta Berlings Saga, Anglagard, Wobbler and on and on. I'm sure you know these. Of course there's plenty more. Hey btw, there's only three Transatlantic albums. Why not get them all. :D

Chris Gray
Chris Gray

It's been corrected. Thanks for noticing. Has anyone actually heard The Lion King 2?

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