Following an ignoble tradition, James Parker, a contributing editor at the Atlantic (a well-known American magazine), has published an article where he trashes progressive rock. This type of of attack is nothing new. For decades, pop music critics in the UK, USA and other countries have taken delight in trashing a musical genre they dislike and clearly don’t understand.
James Parker begins his flawed premise with the title of the article, a fallacy called “The Whitest Music Ever.” Under his uninformed Anglo-Centric perspective, Parker clearly demonstrates that he is unfamiliar with the tremendous diversity of progressive rock: flamenco and tango-rooted, Afro-Cuban, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, Brazilian, Peruvian, Venezuelan, and so forth.
An example of Afro-Cuban prog rock:
And here is one of the best current acts from Japan:
The reason why progressive rock is back in the mainstream media is thanks to a book by David Weigel titled “The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock.” Parker references how Weigel and 3,000 other progressive rock fans embarked on a five-day progressive-rock cruise. In classic despicable fashion, Parker calls it “a floating orgy of some of the most despised music ever produced by long-haired white men.”
Parker asserts that prog rock “ruled the world for about 30 seconds in the early 1970s before being torn to pieces by the starving street dogs of punk rock.” Obviously, he needs a lesson in musical history. Some progressive rock acts like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes and Genesis were extremely popular in the early 1970s and former punk rock musicians went on to make second and third generation progressive rock so his statement is clearly inaccurate.
Parker mentions he likes Queen, which is not a prog rock group. He likes the single from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells used in The Exorcist (good choice) and mentions that he dislikes Rush. Although Rush had one or two albums that ventured into progressive rock, Rush is essentially a hard rock band. Naturally, Palmer trashes one of Yes’ masterpieces, Tales From Topographic Oceans.
The spurious verborrhea continues, defaming prog rock as “hated, dated, sonically superannuated.” We already know many pop critics hate it; old news. Dated? Has Palmer even heard the third or fourth generation trailblazing progressive rock acts who have added dark folk, trip hop, contemporary jazz, world music and many other innovative elements?
Palmer’s tirade goes on and on… And then we get to what he considers the good stuff, the punk rock he loves so much. The difference between individuals like Palmer and those of us who write about progressive rock is that even if we don’t like a genre such as punk rock, we don’t write about it and enjoy trashing it.
Parker thinks he’s witty with all his insults and nastiness, but he just sounds like someone who really does not appreciate innovative music and the time and effort it takes to be a skilled musician. For a history of progressive rock visit: progressive-rock-history/