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Fanboyism in progressive rock

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Toaster Mantis View Drop Down
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    Posted: August 03 2009 at 09:05
There is simply way too much fanboyism in prog rock circles, and here I don't mean things like just liking every single thing your favourite band releases because sometimes that is a defensible opinion.

Yeah, I know that "fanboy" originally meant "completist", but here I use the word in the newer sense where it describes a kind of snob who only really likes a specific work/series/genre/artist/publisher and will hence go to ridiculous lengths to explain its alleged superiority to everything else.  "Fan" is an abbrevation of "fanatic", after all. This often happens from an ignorant position because the person in question has limited exposure to stuff outside the narrow niche of interests in question. If I sound harsh here, I should inform here that this criticism is also directed at myself because until around roughly a year ago (or even less, depending on the definitions) I used to be pretty bad about having a ridiculously narrow field of interest and not giving stuff outside it much of a chance.

This isn't the same as just liking some genres and artists more than others. No, the litmus test is that whenever a fanboy or fangirl ever gets into something outside his/her field of interest, it's either excused as a guilty pleasure or just because it has some connection to whatever it is that he/she actually happens to like, either by having inspired "approved" material or involving some of the same people. For example, a Star Wars fanboy would watch The Bridge on the River Kwai because Alec Guinness is in it and The Dam Busters because George Lucas said it inspired the space battles in Star Wars, but not bother with other WW2 movies because they don't have anything to do with Star Wars.

Now, what does all this have to do with progressive rock?

Well, I've noticed this kind of attitude much more often in fans of progressive rock than of any other type of music. Depressingly frequent manifestations of this include:


    People insisting that other sub-genres of rock'n'roll don't have proficient musicianship or ambitious concepts at all.

    Treating progressiveness or stylistic complexity as something that's good in itself rather than as a means to an end.

    Endless nitpicking over what's "really" progressive and what isn't, which starts to look like an excuse to dismiss artists and albums out of hand if they don't live up to some arbitrary and possibly revisionistic standard of what progression really is.

    Whenever someone doesn't like progressive rock, it's treated as a sign of either some malicious conspiracy or stupidity on part of whatever group of people that's perceived as not appreciating progressive rock enough.

    Only really liking music from other genres (e. g. jazz, metal) on the condition of how much it resembles (or is influential to) progressive rock.

    In general having a very "sacred cow" attitude to artists and albums that are seen as classics of the genre.


I'm not saying that all of us are like that, it might be 50/50 or one of those vocal minorities everyone talks about but all those hoary clichés I just listed sure as hell pop up a lot around these parts. It's bad enough that rock'n'roll fandom often lapses into dogmatism and overtly nostalgic reverence for the past when it's supposed to be irreverent and iconoclastic and not holding anything sacred... but when fans of a sub-genre that stands for thinking even further outside the box show this many symptoms of having a really narrow perspective, I think we need to take a good look at ourselves.

For example, let's take the stuff about musical proficiency: It's not just that craftsmanship is being exalted for its own sense (and as much as I know this is a stereotype, it can result in some lifelessly formal music) but that it looks like a lot of the time it's implicit that the only valid standard of good musicianship whatsoever is whatever (the person using the term judges) works within a progressive rock paradigm. To go back to the stuff I mentioned about this also being aimed at myself, I can point to that thread I made a long time ago that applauded Neil Young for having a song that sounded vaguely like King Crimson. From my current perspective, of course, that thread looks ridiculous. Apples and oranges, isn't that what they say?

Yeah, I know that all hardcore fans of a genre or members of a subculture can be like this but in my experience this is a more common problem in prog-rock fandom than with metalheads or punk rockers, who both have a (often undeserved) reputation for being a bunch of genre chauvinists!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote micky Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2009 at 09:54


very nice......

People insisting that other sub-genres of rock'n'roll don't have proficient musicianship or ambitious concepts at all.

well those people are idiots... simple enough.  There are many.. many examples of the stupidity of that line of thinking.

Treating progressiveness or stylistic complexity as something that's good in itself rather than as a means to an end.

this point is what caught my eye about your post.  The biggest sin of prog fans,  complexity is not prog it itself, but very often a means to an end. The question is ...what is that end.  The Answer is ......not coincidently..  what prog is really about.

the merging of rock music with art.. .the artistic aesthetic.  That is why bands like Floyd, Hawkwind, even Caravan that were not 'complex' music are recognized by all but the pig-headed of prog fans ...as prog. 

Conversely... complexity does not make music prog. Does not? hahah... let's make that should not... but it is.  That is the genrification of prog.

Endless nitpicking over what's "really" progressive and what isn't, which starts to look like an excuse to dismiss artists and albums out of hand if they don't live up to some arbitrary and possibly revisionistic standard of what progression really is.

forget 'progression'... that ties into the preceptions of 'prog', where the whole notion has been twisted ass-backwards and complexity is seen as end all instead of a possible byproduct.  Prog as a means of describing progressive music is a laughable notion since 1977. 

Whenever someone doesn't like progressive rock, it's treated as a sign of either some malicious conspiracy or stupidity on part of whatever group of people that's perceived as not appreciating progressive rock enough.

prog is a niche genre.. just like punk rock.  The 'us vs. them' mentality is what binds many prog fans together.


Only really liking music from other genres (e. g. jazz, metal) on the condition of how much it resembles (or is influential to) progressive rock.


that doesn't bother me much, personal tastes are what they are.  I like country music.... so what.. if someone likes only music related in some to progressive rock.  So what...  they may have more shallow tastes.. but in the end.  Who cares really...

In general having a very "sacred cow" attitude to artists and albums that are seen as classics of the genre.


find me a branch of music that doesn't have it's sacred cows.. prog is no better or worse
I find your lack of Bassoon disturbing.....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Stooge Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2009 at 10:45
Nice blog.  I'm not perfect either, so I'll see how some of your theories apply to me.

People insisting that other sub-genres of rock'n'roll don't have proficient musicianship or ambitious concepts at all.

I definitely see this alot, but have seen it also applied to other genres (metal and jazz) as well.  The longer I have been listening to music and play music (I play bass), the less I care about the technicality of the music and I also learn that in just about any genre there are musicians that could play circles around  some of my biggest influences. 

Treating progressiveness or stylistic complexity as something that's good in itself rather than as a means to an end.

That pretty much sums up why I can go from loving Dream Theater one week and hating them the next. LOL

Endless nitpicking over what's "really" progressive and what isn't, which starts to look like an excuse to dismiss artists and albums out of hand if they don't live up to some arbitrary and possibly revisionistic standard of what progression really is.

I tend to mainly nitpick when it comes to what bands are included on prog archives.  At the end of the day, it isn't my decision who makes it, and I won't get too upset either way.  Heck, I'd consider the Beastie Boys to be rather progressive, but wouldn't put them on this site, and hell would freeze over before this happens anyway.

Whenever someone doesn't like progressive rock, it's treated as a sign of either some malicious conspiracy or stupidity on part of whatever group of people that's perceived as not appreciating progressive rock enough.

Most so-called progressive bands (as classified by PA) aren't for everyone.  I know there are some genres of music that I can't fully appreciate (country, polka, a good amount of punk, ...), and I wouldn't expect my intelligence to be questioned by fans of those genres, so why should I do so to them??

Only really liking music from other genres (e. g. jazz, metal) on the condition of how much it resembles (or is influential to) progressive rock.

This will attract me to certain artists initially, but may only hold my interest for so long.

In general having a very "sacred cow" attitude to artists and albums that are seen as classics of the genre.

I tend to hold some of my favorite artists close to my heart, but am willing to hear out others opinions before I get overly protective of them.  As long as a criticism of a band isn't a personal attack on the artist or myself, I can let it slide.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Slartibartfast Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2009 at 12:03
For me fanboy has always been about discovering a band and finding an irresistible need to add everything from the artist's catalog to you collection as soon as possible, then having to get whatever's new right when it gets released.   So I guess the shoe doesn't really fit me as outlined in your initial post. Big smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bitterblogger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2009 at 16:38
Originally posted by Slartibartfast Slartibartfast wrote:

For me fanboy has always been about discovering a band and finding an irresistible need to add everything from the artist's catalog to you collection as soon as possible, then having to get whatever's new right when it gets released.   So I guess the shoe doesn't really fit me as outlined in your initial post. Big smile
I  view "fanboyism" as essentially the same, yet also including a tendency in some affected individuals to promote that band over others to an obnoxious degree, even to the extent of declaring them "the best" in ridiculous comparisons.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Any Colour You Like Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2009 at 21:37
I have always seen fanboyism to be essentially blind/ignorant musical fundamentalism. That is, "I'm right, because X is the best band, all their works are *****star, and all your bands are crap".
 
But I also beleive that it can be good, especially in creating solid fanbases in more obscure genres like prog, or death metal or indie. It also depends on the maturity level of the fanboy, a 12 year old may not have the neccessary skills to view/argue a topic in a civilised manner, and thus falls back on cliched fanboyisms. Whereas an adult may respect other concepts, whist still vehemently favouring a band or bands.
 
In prog, I think it comes down to the latter, because by their very nature most prog fans are open minded. There will always be those who err into fanboyism in prog, they are elitists, and generally should be ignored.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JJLehto Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 03 2009 at 21:43
It's in EVERY circle of music dude.

With music there will be fanboyism.
That simple
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progkidjoel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2009 at 02:13
YES FTW!XD!!!!1111!!11!!1!1!1!1!!!!

Fanboyism is so incredibly irritating at times, especially about bad stuff...

Like Joey Jordison, Right JJ?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ExittheLemming Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2009 at 03:35
I have to agree with practically everything Toaster Mantis says here in his thread opener (and very eloquently to boot) The sort of callow immaturity he describes is endemic on most website forums.

Gonna quote from my own review of Five Bridges by the Nice (my, how ironically self-indulgent of me)

we cannot help but conclude with some irony, that those denizens of the 'rawk' world who pay lip service to libertarianism, experimentation and anti-establishment values can be, without fear of contradiction, some of the most conservative people on the planet.

Solution - Implement an age restriction to ensure it's just we boring old farts are able to disappear up our own crinkly backsides debating the allegorical custard references in Close to the Edge (or similar)

Youth is wasted on the young...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Failcore Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2009 at 03:52
I think prog actually lacks fanboys in comparison to other genres. Doesn't make it less annoying when you come across a die-hard in the prog realm, but if anything we are way too apologist for liking what we like. It's like some people seem ashamed of prog and  feel the need to bring up all the stuff outside the genre that they listen to (that's happened several times in this thread already, btw.) Even with prog artists, I see this. They will predominately list influences coming from other genres in album sleeves, but refuse to name those that are obviously closer to home. I think in the end it's because prog is a really, really small niche genre so three main things happen 1) The progger gets an intense persecution complex and responds by attacking all other genres. 2) The progger starts trying to branch out to other genres in order to be able to relate to a lot more music enthusiasts. 3) The progger realizes music is just a hobby and therefore learns not to sweat where his tastes place him in the music community. As always, the above 3 choices are abstractions and most of us are fractional compositions thereof. I'd say I'm about equal parts of all 3.

Seriously, though, never ever have been on online web community where there has been so much infighting over trying to have a rosier outlook towards other communities.

Edit: I will say this, I do think there's some music with an indefensible lack of substance and quality. It's a minority, but unfortunately very well publicized one. If this statements makes you mad, then boo hoo, so what? I have an opinion, it happens.


Edited by Deathrabbit - August 04 2009 at 03:56
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LARKSTONGUE Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 04 2009 at 07:59

Toaster Mantis' eloquent rant on elitism among progressive rock fans struck a real chord with me.  The elitism, however, carries through to other musical territories as well.  Having rather varied and broad exposure to many different kinds of music and art, I can say with certainty that this kind of mentality pervades most of the arts. 

Gustav Mahler, the last of a line of great Romantic composers that began with Johannes Brahams, and whose 9th Symphony predicted the break with tonality that was to open many new doors of musical expression (beginning with Arnold Schoenberg), had his works of genius summarily dismissed for fifty years by elitists in the classical avant-garde circle as being passe and locked into the box of Romaniticism.
 
In jazz, one hears all the accolades for Miles Davis, whose conceptual genius and ability to set a mood with music cannot be denied, but whose own technical abilities at the trumpet frequently left an awful lot to be desired. 
 
As a young adolescent listening to Pink Floyd, virtually to the exclusion of anything else, I found myself extolling the virtues of everything they ever did as genius.  Exposure to other areas of music has expanded my tastes considerably since those naive days, and I can now see just how silly that position was.
 
While I appreciate much of Gentle Giant's music, some of it just seems to be complex for complexity's sake rather than complex because the musical concept requires it.  Some of their best material is also some of their most simple. The same holds true, but less so, with King Crimson.
 
The perception by some progheads that other forms of music aren't worth listening to is ludicrious.  The same can be said of people who listen solely to other rock genres, exclusively to jazz or to classical music.  This type of elitism stems frequently from an attempt to rationalize the subjective.  Tastes are not static and tastes are not universal.  To box onself in to listening to only one artist or to only one genre of music denies yourself the pleasure of experiencing an infinite amount of material. 
 
Sure, it is okay to gravitate to certain forms or artists.  And, if, in the final analysis, you wish to choose to listen to just one genre or artist, that of course is your right and your prerogative.  But, in doing so, one must be conscious of the fact that your crush or love affair with the artist or genre may not be shared by others.  You may also find, at some point, that the infatuation fizzles out. 
 
After doing some exploring, and then coming back to have another look, you may find that that high school prom queen of a band or musical form you enjoyed so much may have turned into a 500 pound couch potato.  To each their own.  Love what you love but be willing to grow.  Being rigid is rigor mortis and being unable to grow is being dead.
 
Thanks for your excellent post.
  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote paragraph7 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 05 2009 at 17:52
When reading the comments above yours, i was having very similiar thoughts to yours.

I think that the whole reason why there even is threads or blogs like this one on this site is because prog listeners try to be as objective to music as possible. With objective here i mean that we try to go through and live as much music we can, and see where that gets us; which is the music we like the most?. There's no difference with a prog purist or a hiphop purist if the prog one hasn't ever even heard hiphop. I myself have listened to all those crappy genres more than i want to admit, but atleast now, i know which over time has pleased me most. If progg "fanboys" would mock other genres, especially the totally mainstream ones, they would actually have a more defensible ground than the hiphop or trance fanboys because most of these have never heard of prog, or those amounts of music that proggers have anyway. And here's the real funny thing, most proggers wouldn't even want to use that "defensible ground" to mock other genres, just because mocking other genres is not an objective and neutral approach in analyzing music. "Fanboying" is irritating yes, but if it's so fundamental in music in general, why do we try cleanse it so badly? Because it's prog we're talking about.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote reality Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 05 2009 at 18:15
I do not know what "Prog" is? I do not want to know what "Prog" is and anyone who tries to tell me what "Prog" is will get a cold ear. It is all just simple Rock music to me. Get over it!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nuke Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 05 2009 at 19:10
I think prog fans ought to get out and become elitist in other genres and then come back to prog. I left prog and became a metalhead of the obnoxiously arrogant sort when I was younger. It is true that metalheads are a bunch of genre chauvinists. Interestingly, lots of metalheads are also interested in classical music because they see it as a relevant genre, kind of like proggers except metalheads often bizarrly shun jazz. Anyways,I swear being a metal elitist for 2 years really helped me exand my musical ideas and so when I came back to prog (although deep down I still see metal as a superior genre) I actually had a far more open mind. Interestingly, I feel that somehow this opened the door for me to reaccept pop music, although I don't know exactly how. I guess my point is that if you just forget about prog for a couple years, you will come back much more openminded.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Blacksword Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2009 at 07:22
You want to see the fanboyism, that exists in dance music and DJ circles. It's intolerable and makes prog fanboyism look like reasonable opinion sharing.

JJLehto's assertion that it exists in all musical circles is very very true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Toaster Mantis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2009 at 03:50
Originally posted by paragraph7 paragraph7 wrote:

There's no difference with a prog purist or a hiphop purist if the prog one hasn't ever even heard hiphop. I myself have listened to all those crappy genres more than i want to admit, but atleast now, i know which over time has pleased me most. If progg "fanboys" would mock other genres, especially the totally mainstream ones, they would actually have a more defensible ground than the hiphop or trance fanboys because most of these have never heard of prog, or those amounts of music that proggers have anyway.


The musical genre with the most ridiculously snobby fans is actually folk music, at least traditionally where you've had people booing at Bob Dylan for going electric. Things have probably changed within the last 30 years or so with bands that combined folk music with very modern genres getting other kinds of people into folk and some of them even becoming pretty popular e. g. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Gogol Bordello or Katzenjammer. However, you can still find lots of folk purists who have such ridiculously strict standards of what's "authentic" that their tastes gravitate to stuff so peripheral and primitive it doesn't really represent traditional music at all.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Toaster Mantis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2009 at 04:32
Originally posted by Nuke Nuke wrote:

I left prog and became a metalhead of the obnoxiously arrogant sort when I was younger. It is true that metalheads are a bunch of genre chauvinists. Interestingly, lots of metalheads are also interested in classical music because they see it as a relevant genre, kind of like proggers except metalheads often bizarrly shun jazz. Anyways,I swear being a metal elitist for 2 years really helped me exand my musical ideas and so when I came back to prog (although deep down I still see metal as a superior genre) I actually had a far more open mind.


Yeah, that's pretty funny... might have something to do with the stereotype of metalheads as insufferable genre chauvinists not being quite as true as it might have been 20 years ago, by the way.

Though I can confirm that kind of metal purist does exist, I've actually met more people who mostly listened to metal than people who mostly listened to prog-rock who also were into all kinds of obscure folk singers and industrial noise bands.

This isn't a completely good thing, though, since it's been a bit of a fad for the last 10 years with bands awkwardly combining metal with completely unrelated genres in a really literal way which sometimes does result in some good music (e. g. Aarni, Fantômas) but just as often is because of that suspiciously affected open-mindedness deathrabbit rightfully castigated... which I must restate is actually more common in metal than in prog. Again, it is just as ubiquitious as overtly exclusive fanboyism and is probably related to it in some bizarre manner but it's kinda grating in those that pride themselves on eclecticism.

The people who are worst about these, however, are probably the "generically alternative" crowd as parodied by the RateYourMusic user Six_o_the-Clock. LOL

Do I sound confused? Well, that's probably because I am. What I'm trying to say with this post is probably that the inclusive and the exclusive snob are two sides of the same coin and equally annoying. Indeed, I suspect that a lot of the suspiciously open-minded are fanboys trying too hard to go to the other extreme and might branch out for the wrong reasons, e. g. trying to project a sophisticated image (even just for themselves) rather than to understand different art than what they're familiar with.

I know that the golden mean is a cliché and not always true, but I guess that you have to do a balancing act in having to keep an open mind without being obnoxious or affected about it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2009 at 06:19
Good post, but isn't it a rather self critical, inward looking analysis?  In my experience, most music fans, whatever be the genre, are too attached to specific genre(s) and are both reluctant to venture outside the resulting comfort zone and also grudging in giving respect to music they are not familiar with.  Your post in fact seems to express the hope that prog rock fans would be different and you are disillusioned that this is not so; well prog rock fans are no different from blues fans or folk fans or metal fans, who do we think we are!!  I would not even venture to generalize that prog rock fans have a larger attention span or are more patient because I am terribly impatient with blues jams for instance and also ambient music in general. 

I also agree that open-mindedness has become both a fad and a copout; the moment somebody comes along who doesn't like somebody else's favourite band, the former is asked to be more open minded about music.  Likes and dislikes have nothing to do with open mindedness, because liking absolutely everything shows a lack of discerning capacity, if anything.   I want to clarify that by "absolutely everything", I mean artists and albums, not genres because I am sure there is something to like in every genre, whether for me or not is a different story.  I follow a simple thumb of rule to 'help' myself like music I am not unfamiliar with, just to not go in with any preconceived expectations at all.  If I am familiar with the music, I have a good idea what to expect though I wouldn't hold it against the band if they did something different from what I expected but when I have no idea what to expect, I just listen with a blank slate and see for myself if I find anything to enjoy in it.  This admittedly does not yield great results when you listen to more esoteric forms of music but that's fine with me; I don't HAVE to like everything, as long as I am not dismissive about music from a genre that I don't regularly listen to, I am ok.   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nuke Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2009 at 16:31

Hmm, my cliche is that I always disagree with the golden mean, and I must do so again. It isn't a balancing act. We have the inclusive snob and the exclusive snob, but one can be far more openminded than the most inclusive snob and still not be one. I do agree, however, that the fusing genres awkwardly into metal trend is not very good. I really get tired with the fact that any time a band puts non-metal sounds into their music, they are hailed as creative and original. I love the new cynic album. That album to me is a perfect example of being extremely openminded without being pretentious and/or low quality. It is actually more openminded than these hipster metal bands could be, because while they are often different for the sake of being different, cynic are different because they have to be for the sake of their music. I think this also applies to prog rock. When king crimson added the string section to their song epitaph, it wasn't because string sections were hip, it's because the song demanded a bigger, more epic sound. By the way, great link. Smile 

rogerthat, going into music with no preconceived expectations is how I always approach new music. Even bands I am familiar with I still clear my mind before hitting play.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Toaster Mantis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 10 2009 at 02:50
Originally posted by rogerthat rogerthat wrote:

Good post, but isn't it a rather self critical, inward looking analysis?  In my experience, most music fans, whatever be the genre, are too attached to specific genre(s) and are both reluctant to venture outside the resulting comfort zone and also grudging in giving respect to music they are not familiar with.  Your post in fact seems to express the hope that prog rock fans would be different and you are disillusioned that this is not so; well prog rock fans are no different from blues fans or folk fans or metal fans, who do we think we are!!  I would not even venture to generalize that prog rock fans have a larger attention span or are more patient because I am terribly impatient with blues jams for instance and also ambient music in general.


The reason that it annoys me more in progressive rock/art rock fandom than with, say, folk fans is probably that this is a "movement" that prides itself on eclecticism and thinking outside the box so to see it get so insular and dogmatic is rather jarring. Confused Also, I guess that on a prog rock forum it is more appropriate to discuss how this kind of fanboyism applies here than to other genres. Wink


Edited by Toaster Mantis - August 10 2009 at 02:51
"The past is not some static being, it is not a previous present, nor a present that has passed away; the past has its own dynamic being which is constantly renewed and renewing." - Claire Colebrook
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