We’re starting something new here at Thrash Hits. We’ve asked some of our favourite writers to put together some monthly columns, focussing in on the genres they’re most passionate about. We’re kicking off this new series with David Keevill taking on what’s been going on in Prog over the last month or so. Take it away, David….
1) The Division Knell
Pink Floyd (yes, that’s them picture above) released their first album in twenty years. It’s called The Endless River, and they’ve cited that it’ll be their last. It has carved the musical cognoscenti down the middle. Nostalgia addicts grumbled about the band’s heyday and went back to slathering over their Piper At the Gates of Dawn vinyl, whilst everyone else tried to work out what to think about The Floyd’s last act as a musical entity. Ultimately, and perhaps fittingly, no consensus has been reached. For some, an 18 track instrumental album (only the final song has vocals) crafted from music taken from Division Bell’s leftovers, is a clever and deft expression of the band’s inability move on from their acrimonious split with Roger Waters, and the silence that has cut through them ever since. For others, it’s a fitting homage to the band’s former keyboardist, Rick Wright, who died from cancer in 2008; Wright himself features heavily on the album. For a band who gave everything to this corner of music, that their last moment in the limelight should be anything other than divisive and complicated is perhaps incredibly appropriate.
You say tomato, I say bloated vanity project. The Flaming Lips’ latest outing isn’t actually a Flaming Lips record – it’s a cover album titled With a Little Help From My Fwends, that sees Wayne Coyne joined by all of his showbiz mates for a go at The Beatles’ psychedelic romp Stg Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. It’s for charity, and it probably should do very well for funding target, seeing as its guests include the likes of Maynard James Keenan, Moby and Miley Cyrus. Sadly though, the album suffers from its own sense of self-worth. It is obese, its jutting gut wrapped in a thin layer of experimentalism and back-slapping do-goodery. Miley Cyrus’ smoky vocals on ‘Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds’ are the album’s highlight, which probably tells you as much as you need to know about this record.
3) Live One
The year so far has been a veritable banquet of proggy shows, and like a lot of banquets, you have to get through the duffer courses (the honeyed figs, the badger eyes), to get to the delicious, filling meat of the Turducken. As always, the dry bit of this year’s feast arrived in the endless, stagnant summer months. September/October came, though, and we were straight back into beef stew and lashings of mead, with fine showings from the likes of Leprous, Haken, Collibus, Anathema, Order of Voices and, obviously, Opeth. Looking towards the business end of November, we’ve only been treated to an amuse-bouche (fed up of this yet?) of this year’s treats. Of note, The Safety Fire (featuring TH’s footy favourite Dez Nagle) are replacing The Faceless on Protest the Hero’s UK tour, to finish up a monstrous bill with The Cortortionist and Destrage. Heads, as they say, will bang.
4) Proggy release of the month
In a month when progressive heavyweight Devin Townsend and blue-rise brigade Pink Floyd released albums, it’s perhaps shocking that the best thing to come out of the last four weeks is an EP from a band entering their seventh year of existence. Haken, a London-based progressive collective, sample everything from sleek lounge-jazz to loud, pompous riffs. Restorations is their fourth release, and it comes hot on the heels of last year’s The Mountain, a preposterously boundary-less work of gargantuan scale. It zigs somewhat back to their earlier, more melodic releases, but retains an adventurous soul. The twenty-minute long ‘Crystallised’ is vast and exploratory, held together by a sweet vocal hook that demonstrates just how finely attuned this band are to the spirit of interesting music. In short, it’s brilliant.
5) A Patton is emerging
Mike Patton, polygamous musician and all-round eccentric has popped up in his non-Faith-No-More guises a couple of times in the last few weeks. Firstly, there’s his new art collaborative with Australian composer Anthony Pateras, entitled tētēma. Their first release, Geocidal, is jaw-droppingly absurd – the sort of thing that makes his work with The Ictus Ensemble sound positively linear. Eerie and disconcerting, Patton is in fine fettle, laying his trademark vocals over this new jaunt. In more avant-whatever news, Patton’s Mr Bungle project sees a re-issue some of their back catalogue on vinyl. Music on Vinyl, the archival imprint, have released a new pressing of the band’s self-titled debut album. Consider this a fluffing in advance of FNM’s new album next April.
It may be sacrilegious to say, but the noughties revival of prog was what was needed to shuffle the genre’s image away from the sepia timestamp of organ solos and blokes wearing glittery capes. As the fanatics of the heady, psychedelic seventies stay true to their roots, a younger breed of progger, not drawn by the chintz of Genesis or Rush’s overblown sonic highways, has claimed this resurgence as their own. If there was ever a band who could act as the archetype for this modern wave, it’s Anathema.
As a band whose back catalogue spans doom, gothic, and more recently, atmospheric prog over a twenty year period, theirs is an outfit that deserve the kind of retrospective usually reserved for much statelier acts. To emphasise the breadth of their influence and artistic output, they’ve just announced two shows of significance; a slot at heavy-connoisseurs’ fest Roadburn, and a show at the Shepherds Bush Empire in April 2015. Importantly, both sets will feature the return of former members Darren White and Duncan Patterson, who both departed the band before their landmark Judgement album.
Whilst their later, more atmospheric albums have cemented their place at the top of the progressive food chain and won them a load of new followers, their enduring legacy is owed to this voracious attitude to advance and change. The shows next year, at the very least, will be evidence of how far these experimental giants have progressed.