Okay, I fully admit that as a guy who loves progressive rock, I’m setting myself up for ridicule and taunts from the peanut gallery.Â I hear you derisively yelling,Â “Math rock geek,” or “Lover of unicorns, ferries, and 7/8 time.”
Progressive rock is a genre of music that has an odd cross-section appeal. On the one hand, there are geeks who are lured by the complexity of the music.Â On the other, there are stoners who just love a good trip — and need an appropriate soundtrack. Sometimes you get a combination of stoner/geek in one person — and they end up creating things like Second Life or Boohbah.Â Me? I love melody more than complexity, so my tastes in progressive rock lean more toward what’s presented here.
The first time I heard Yes was in my junior year of high school.Â I had just moved to a new school, and I met a guy who turned out to be a huge lover of what we now call classic rock.Â Led Zep, the Doors, Hendrix, and Yes.Â One day, he lent me an old 8 track tape he had of Close to the Edge. I had an old stereo that had an 8 track player, and I must have listened to that tape for three days straight.Â I wasn’t too taken by the songs at first, but by day two, something clicked and I was hooked.
Generally the Moody Blues are not considered a progressive rock band, but they have prog tendencies like onÂ “In the Beginning/Lovely to See You.” As a kid, I used to listen to these records over and over (they were and are my mom’s favorite band), and “In the Beginning” was just creepy/funny enough to warrant repeated listens to my 7-year-old ears.Â I never really got what the characters in this strange dialogue were talking about. Only years later did I realize that the songs were an anti-modernist critique of The System and The Man.
“Timeless Traces,” Sylvan (download)
I have only recently gotten into this band, and, truth be told, I have no idea who introduced me to them. Marco Gluhmann’s voice reminds me of Midge Ure’s at times, but this song is really just … wonderful. Maybe it’s the soaring guitar that gets me.Â Maybe it’s Gluhmann’s vocal phrasing.Â Maybe it’s just a great song!
“Prodigal,” Porcupine Tree (download)
The thing about Porcupine Tree is that their name makes them sound almost inaccessible — like you’re going to hear 78 minutes of some guy screaming in pain. However, if there was a band I would compare them to, it would be Pink Floyd — especially on this song.Â The slow buildup and the harmonizing vocals get me every time.Â Oh, and just as an FYI:Â Â John Wesley — the guitarist for the band — has some really great songs he’s recorded as a solo artist; two of my favorites are “Pretty Lives” and “King of 17.”
“Wax Simulacra,” the Mars Volta (download)
If Axl Rose and Geddy Lee met and had a baby now, Cedric Bixler-Zavala would be his name.Â I love Rush and I heard this band had a Rush-like sound, so I bought Frances the Mute wanting very much to like it.Â But there was something about that album that made me want to run away and question my prog sensibilities. However, something happened when they recorded The Bedlam in Goliath: they discovered they could prog out in the space of 2:39.
“The Suffering,” Coheed and Cambria (download)
The first time I heard this song, I really thought it was woman singing the lead. Then I saw the video with big, burly Claudio Sanchez belting it out.Â Huh?Â Was it a mistake? A dude who looks like this singing with such a high voice? Nope.Â Once I shook off my disbelief and surrendered to the music, I found that “The Suffering” not only contained some proggy goodness, but it’s a really great pop song, too!