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25 June, 2006

Courageously convicting

I was very nearly gratuitously rude to a stranger last night.

Two things you need to know: I dislike prog rock, reserving especial loathing for Yes, and I don't believe in expressing opinions from the protection of online anonymity that I wouldn't defend face-to-face.

I'm not exactly reticent in explaining that whilst I enjoy progressive rock (i.e. music which actively challenges genre boundaries, creating new music) I intensely dislike 'prog' rock (music of a specific, fixed genre which was genuinely progressive in the early 1970s but which ceased to progress). 'Progressive' and 'prog' are not the same thing.
There are bands I like which were part of the 'prog' genre when it was progressive, but which remained progressive and hence ceased to be 'prog'. There are also bands that stayed 'prog' and became a public and critical laughing stock – rightfully so. Unfortunately, that reputation unduly rubbed-off on the bands I do like. Hence my conclusion: that if crappy bands like Yes had never existed, bands I do like, such as Jethro Tull, would have achieved greater lasting critical and commercial success. Yes is an anathema.

All too often, I've witnessed, and occasionally been the target of, unrestrained verbal attacks of a cowardly savagery only possible because the arguments were online and the speakers had the protection of being thousands of kilometres from their victims. They tend to involve personal attacks, too, which are merely nasty and pointless.
Not that I'd be so childish anyway, but I operate under the basic principle of imagining I'm writing to someone in the same room. Debate might become heated, but it remains respectful and avoids the risk of being punched. To uncharacteristically use a football reference: 'Go for the ball, not the man'. As I said above, I also try to avoid making wild points online that I wouldn't feel able to support in a face-to-face conversation. I'm not perfect (no, really), but I generally achieve reasonable self-censorship.

I visited J & Fi for a meal last night (J remembered to cook – last time we ended up ordering a takeaway. Not that I'm complaining, and I rely on J recognising teasing!). They recently befriended one of their neighbours, and he joined us for dinner. In the course of the conversation, the subject of musical taste arose, and for some reason J. prompted me to confess a liking for 'Scandinavian prog'. Puzzled, I admitted slight embarrassment that there was a time when I quite liked the Flower Kings, but that they'd since joined my general dislike of the crap they were copying, such as Yes.
The neighbour had been sitting leant over the kitchen table, but at this point sat back, revealing a Yes t-shirt....

Time stopped.

I could have backed off, and attempted to say something conciliatory for the sake of politeness. Actually, I couldn't; I can't think of anything favourable about Yes whatsoever.

Sticking to my principles, I could have elaborated on my dislike in full, with vitriol. For a moment I seriously considered it. However, that would have been unprovoked and unnecessarily rude. Being prepared to defend a position is one thing, but forcing a view on someone uninvited is ruder.

I was glad to find that in the split-second of finding myself in a situation where I might have to espouse a contentious online opinion 'in real life' (i.e. tell a Yes fan I wished his favourite band had never existed), I had the courage of conviction to do so. However, I was more glad that my natural reserve intervened, and I didn't instigate an avoidable argument.
I simply said "Ah. Right. I don't like Yes." and changed the subject. To my dislike of post-1995 Jethro Tull. But that is indeed a different topic.


Yes are a sort of 'Marmite' band; people either love them or hate them, and there's no half-measures. If someone's a strong fan or anti-fan, it's not possible to discuss them rationally. I got enough flack once for daring to suggest they'd lost the plot with 'Tormato'.

I don't really buy the idea that Porcupine Tree would be more popular and critically respected if Yes had never existed. I'd rather blame the cloth-eared music press obsessed with style over content. The world would have been a better place if the mothers of sneering idiots like Tony Parsons and Paul Morley had headaches one night.

As for The Flower Kings, I quite liked them until I saw them live. They proceeded to play two and a half hours of directionless noodling with far too few actual songs, and recent albums have been just as bad. Pity, because their early stuff showed promise.

Posted by Tim Hall at June 26, 2006 08:49 PM

I don't really buy the idea that Porcupine Tree would be more popular and critically respected if Yes had never existed.

Nor me! I meant Tull, in the mid-70s. Their career could have recovered from the critical backlash against 'A Passion Play', but by the time they, yes, progressed to their folk-rock albums they'd been categorised with symphonic/art-rock bands and dismissed.

If Porcupine Tree have anything in common with 'prog' (and SW would, er, question that premise he emphatically makes the 'progressive, not prog' distinction) it's with a variety rehabilitated decades after the damage had been done.

The Flower Kings... directionless noodling with far too few actual songs, and recent albums have been just as bad... their early stuff showed promise.


Posted by NRT at June 26, 2006 11:18 PM
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