Results for prog rock

interviews

Robert Wyatt

Jim and Greg are joined by Robert Wyatt in the next segment. While he may not be a household name, Wyatt is one of the most influential musicians of the rock era. As a drummer with 1960s group Soft Machine, Wyatt reinvented prog rock, and was a pioneer of jazz-rock fusion. He was later ousted from Soft Machine, and in 1973 a terrible fall rendered him a paraplegic. But, as his interview with Jim and Greg reveals, Wyatt never ceased to be an innovator. Jim explains that Wyatt's been having a career resurgence in recent years. He was not only up for the prestigious Mercury Prize in England in 2003, but he is releasing a new album, Comicopera, on Domino Records, the label that is also home to Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys.

Greg begins by asking Wyatt about his appeal to a younger generation of musicians, including Thom Yorke and Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. Wyatt can‘t explain this phenomenon, but he imagines that people respect how he does his own thing and makes music for music’s sake. It's inspirational for young musicians to see that you can maintain artistic integrity and, at the same time, longevity.

Wyatt formed the Soft Machine with three other schoolmates, and he never imagined that they'd eventually be opening up for Jimi Hendrix on his 1968 tour. The music of that time influenced his politics as well as his sound. But while contemporaries like The Rolling Stones looked to the blues, Wyatt and the Soft Machine looked to jazz. After his accident, though, Wyatt was forced to approach drumming differently than other jazz musicians. By eliminating the element of acrobatic virtuosity that jazz drummers often focus on, Wyatt was free to focus on the beats and the sounds. But, listeners shouldn‘t confuse Wyatt’s experimentalism with an anti-pop attitude. He says, "Pop music is the folk music of the post-industrial era, and folk music is the most important music in the world."

Go to episode 100

Trey Parker and Matt Stone

It's time to "Man Up" for a visit from Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They are the dynamic duo behind South Park and the hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon.“What are they doing on our rock and roll show?”you ask. Well, some of the greatest moments of satire (see last week's show) on South Park are musical. In fact, check out our favorites here.

Plus, you could argue the show itself is quite punk rock with it's no holds barred attitude and lo-fi animation. The show even spawned a Rick Rubin-produced album. Now we have an equally outrageous musical, The Book of Mormon. It tells the story of two Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda. It's even“bluer”than South Park, but despite this, or perhaps because of it, it's a smash hit. Trey, Matt and collaborator Robert Lopez have won a slew of Tony Awards and a record-breaking slot on the Billboard chart. So, how'd two Ween, Primus and Prog Rock fans from Colorado end up the toast of Broadway? Trey and Matt explained this and their songwriting philosophy during their visit to our studios. They were in town for the Chicago opening of the play.

Go to episode 374

Rush

rush Jim gets to unleash his inner thirteen-year-old this week as he and Greg sit down with Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of the Canadian prog-rock legends Rush. All three members of Rush are known for their ridiculous virtuosity on their instruments – drum god Neil Peart, Lifeson on guitar, and Geddy Lee, who manages to play bass and synths and sing simultaneously. Lee and Lifeson met in junior high in Ontario and released a couple hard rock albums with drummer John Rutsey in the early '70s. But the band really hit its stride when Rutsey was replaced by Neil Peart, who also became the primary lyricist. They began crafting epic progressive rock concept albums like 2112 and Hemispheres featuring side-length sci-fi suites. The albums Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures brought Rush radio hits in the early '80s, and the band moved into a synth-driven phase. Over the ensuing decades, Rush has continued to evolve its sound and adapt to new styles, while growing a cult fanbase that is intense to say the least. The band just celebrated its 40th anniversary with a tour and live album called R40 Live. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson discuss the band's evolving styles, the existence of female Rush fans, and whether the band will continue.

Go to episode 535

Rush

rush Jim gets to unleash his inner thirteen-year-old this week as he and Greg sit down with Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of the Canadian prog-rock legends Rush. All three members of Rush are known for their ridiculous virtuosity on their instruments – drum god Neil Peart, Lifeson on guitar, and Geddy Lee, who manages to play bass and synths and sing simultaneously. Lee and Lifeson met in junior high in Ontario and released a couple hard rock albums with drummer John Rutsey in the early '70s. But the band really hit its stride when Rutsey was replaced by Neil Peart, who also became the primary lyricist. They began crafting epic progressive rock concept albums like 2112 and Hemispheres featuring side-length sci-fi suites. The albums Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures brought Rush radio hits in the early '80s, and the band moved into a synth-driven phase. Over the ensuing decades, Rush has continued to evolve its sound and adapt to new styles, while growing a cult fanbase that is intense to say the least. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson discuss the band's evolving styles, the existence of female Rush fans, and more.

Go to episode 682
reviews
MirroredMirrored available on iTunes

Battles Mirrored

Up next is Mirrored by the math rock outfit Battles. The New York quartet has been getting a lot of attention by indie rock fans for their unique take on instrumental music. In fact, the band won't even describe their music as instrumental, but rather music without any lyrics. Jim and Greg both love the combination of electronica and 1970s prog rock. Greg even compares their unique melodies and compositions to that of space age pop musician Esquivel. Both critics note how this cerebral brand of music can usually be kind of cold and off-putting, but, Battles has put a human touch to it. Therefore Mirrored gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful WorldWhat a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World available on iTunes

The Decemberists What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

Portland folk-rock band The Decemberists has steadily ascended the ranks of rock stardom over their career, even hitting #1 on the Billboard charts with their previous album The King Is Dead. But it's been four years since that record dropped, and in the intervening period the band has developed a new diversity in their sound. Their new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World experiments with a variety of pop styles not found in previous records, while still featuring the trademark hyperliterate lyrics of leader Colin Meloy. Greg is happy to hear the band in top form, nicely complemented by the harmony vocals of Rachel Flotard and Kelly Hogan. Jim loves how they manage to flirt with the prog rock sounds of Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake & Palmer without a hint of pretentiousness, all thanks to Meloy's self-deprecating sense of humor. Both critics give it a Buy It, with Jim going so far as to call it the first masterpiece of 2015.

JimGreg
Go to episode 477
10,000 Days

Tool 10,000 Days

On a completely different note, progressive metal band Tool also has a new album out. 10,000 Days is the band's fourth album, and it debuted at number one on the Billboard Chart. Tool's commercial success is surprising considering the band's lack of self-promotion: They rarely get radio or MTV play, seldom do interviews, and perform practically in darkness. They are almost anonymous, yet have a huge cult following. Jim and Greg imagine this is because of the band's progressive rock vibe. They appeal to fans (especially teenagers) who love complete albums and desire to spend hours and hours mulling over one band's work. But, Jim points out, unlike prog rock groups like Rush and Genesis, Tool's music is lacking hooks. It's nü-metal side kind of ruins the package for Jim and Greg. Therefore, despite the fun 3-D packaging, 10,000 Days only gets a Trash It from Greg and an reticent Burn It from Jim.

JimGreg
Go to episode 24
WWIWWI available on iTunes

White Whale WWI

The first album up for review this week is by White Whale. This up-and-coming indie rock group from Lawrence, Kansas first caught the attention of our hosts at this year's SXSW Music Conference. Now they have released their debut album, WWI. Whether the title refers to the Great War, or a great record, is unclear. But, both Jim and Greg agree this album is worth a listen, though not necessarily a purchase. Jim loves the prog rock approach, but can't go with a full Buy It. Greg agrees, explaining that he likes the music and finds White Whale intriguing, but isn't clear on the emotional subtext. He wonders where the“meat”is. Therefore, WWI gets two Burn Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 36
The Crane Wife (10th Anniversary Edition)The Crane Wife available on iTunes

The Decemberists The Crane Wife

Finally, we move to the literate, fantastic world of The Decemberists. Lead-singer Colin Meloy (a former guest of our fair show) has always been wordy, but with lyrics like“affix your barbs and bayonets, the curlews carve their arabesques,”and song titles like "The Island: Come & See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel The Drowning," he is taking it to a new level. The Decemberists' new album, The Crane Wife, is based on a Japanese folk tale — but despite these lofty inspirations, both Jim and Greg love this album. Jim has never denied his fondness for epic prog rock, but commends Meloy for taking the genre into the present, without sacrificing the hooks. Sound Opinions can vouch for Jim's praise of this record; he beams every time he mentions it. In the past, Greg has given the Decemberists (and Jim) a hard time for being too“twee.”But, he found this album to be the most ambitious of the band's career. He compares much of Meloy's writing to that of English bands like the Fairport Convention and explains that he is“developing into one of the most important songwriters of our time.”So this episode of Sound Opinions ends on a high note (literally, if you listen to Jim's sing-a-long). The Crane Wife gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 46
SinoSino available on iTunes

Café Tacuba Sino

The first album Jim and Greg discuss this week is Sino by Café Tacuba. This is the sixth album from the band widely thought to be the inventors of "Rock En Español." Café Tacuba is known for melding many musical influences, making them truly progressive rockers. In fact, Jim hears a lot of British prog-rock influence in the songs. He found it funny and insightful, but wishes there was more grit in the recording. Despite this, he gives Sino a Buy It. Greg is happy to hear this, as he is a long-standing Tacuba fan. He describes these musicians as true innovators, despite claims that they've gone“too mainstream”on this album. The songs are experimental, without sacrificing pop elements. Greg also gives Sino a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 101
DiversDivers available on iTunes

Joanna Newsom Divers

Performing on a huge orchestral harp, singer/songwriter Joanna Newsom has stood out since she arrived on the scene in the early 2000s. Divers is the fourth album of her career, and the first since the 2010 triple album Have One On Me. Greg has always been intrigued by Newsom's work, viewing her as a complete original. But although he admired the musicianship on Have One On Me, he found it an exhausting listen. Divers, by contrast, is relatively accessible. She still peppers in obscure literary references, but lyrically she is much more direct in creating an emotional connection for the listener. For Greg, this is the album that Newsom's skeptics should dive into – he gives it a Buy It. Jim, however, is baffled. He scoffs at Newsom's faux-Shakespearean sentence constructions. He finds the album's lyrical concept, in which Newsom reflects on mortality after marrying comedian Andy Samberg, to be bloated. Jim is usually a big fan of pretentious prog rock, but musically he thinks Divers is sodden and lacking hooks. And he's extremely irritated by Newsom's voice, hearing it as the affected voice of an eleven-year-old girl. According to Jim, there's nothing at all to like here, so Divers gets a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 517
dijs

Jim

“One for the Vine”Genesis

A couple of classic rock reunions made the news recently. First was Black Sabbath sans Ozzy Osbourne. The second was Genesis sans Peter Gabriel. Jim is a self-professed "prog rock nerd" and wanted to use his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox as an opportunity to defend Genesis, even in the days after Gabriel (and according to some, the band's credibility) left. He goes with "One for the Vine," which our host explains may have been written by Tony Banks as a companion to "Salsbury Hill," which was written by Gabriel, his friend and former bandmate. Jim believes the song is about a messianic leader who brings his people into a war fought in his name, and then gets pulled up into heaven… or something like that. Regardless of the content, Jim thinks it's a beautiful song. Greg scoffs, but you be the judge.

Go to episode 49

Jim

“Trees”Rush

Jim picks a song to add to the Desert Island Jukebox this week. All that talk about Canada got him thinking about one of his favorite bands—Rush. This band might not always get a lot of respect, but Jim believes they gave virtuoso prog rock performances. He chooses not to go with one of Rush's epic songs, which could take up half a show, and instead picks a track called "Trees." This song, released on the band's 1978 album Hemispheres, tells the story of a battle of the wills between maple trees and oak trees. If that doesn‘t convince you of the band’s greatness, listen for drummer Neal Peart's woodblock solo!

Go to episode 13

Jim

“The Return of the Giant Hogweed”Genesis

Jim's been thinking a lot about Genesis lately – and no, not the most famous version of the band with Phil Collins on vocals. Before hits like "I Can't Dance" Genesis was an unabashedly nerdy prog rock band, and that's the iteration of the group Jim wants to celebrate with his DIJ pick. 1971's Nursery Cryme with Peter Gabriel on vocals fit wonderfully into Jim's teenage world of renaissance fairs, Isaac Asimov, and Dungeons and Dragons. No track embodied the group's proto-steampunk ethic better than "The Return of the Giant Hogweed." Gabriel tells the story of a Victorian explorer who discovers the hogweed in Russia. Unaware of the plant's carnivorous tendencies he brings it back to England to the royal Kew Gardens, where it proceeds to wreak havoc. Listen for Steve Hackett, mimicking the sounds of the murderous plant on his guitar.

Go to episode 353

Jim

“Lucky Man”Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Jim recently contributed to a new book on Prog Rock, so he's got the experimental pop of the 1970's on the brain. And no band from that era is sillier than Emerson, Lake and Palmer. If it could be done over the top, they did it. Take the track "Lucky Man" for example. It features one of rock's earliest Moog solos and made it possible for keyboard nerds to imagine themselves guitar shredders. So of course, Jim wants to add it to the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 392
lists

Fantasy Songs

Whether Mordor, Westeros, or a dystopian landscape, multiple artists have written songs that pay homage to their favorite fantasy worlds. This week, Jim and Greg share their inner nerdiness and pick their favorite prog rock and fantasy-inspired songs.

Go to episode 608