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Prog Rock Redux

August 27, 2010

It has been around 35 years since Punk burst onto the rock scene and drove the complex, shoe-staring indulgence that is prog rock into seeming oblivion with no more than three, probably untuned chords.  Signs are, though, that prog may be on the way back.

First, mainstream media has started to get all retrospective about it — a sure sign of resurgence.  The BBC  ”celebrated” prog — or progressive rock, to give it its proper name — with a nostalgic documentary at the end of 2008.  It has been repeated and triggered coverage of the genre elsewhere.  The Guardian recently pointed to prog’s  new, growing fan base.

progSecond, some of the old prog kings are out and about. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, a kind of prog super-group, got together again for a reunion concert earlier in summer. Roger Waters, of the original Pink Floyd, is playing The Wall, a prog rock masterpiece, on tour. Rick Wakeman (left), once the be-caped keyboard wizard of Yes, has never stopped and is planning to present his 1974 classic “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” in Australia and South America next year.

But the main driver for a return of prog rock probably comes from contemporary music. Groups such as Iceland’s Sigur Ros, France’s Air, Britain’s Radiohead and perhaps even the highly popular Muse all have strong elements of the old, discredited music in them.

Chatting to Reuters before a recent gig, Wakeman said a lot of groups like these break the rules of rock music, which by his definition is one of the core elements of prog.

“There are a lot of bands around that have taken a bit of prog rock,” he said. “Radiohead always said they had nothing to do with prog, but they have.”

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