If anyone has read the attacks below, posted on Progarchy, that are assaulting the latest from both Roine Stolt and The Tangent, I just want to encourage people to ignore the ranting and raving, and to actually go and listen to the music and lyrics instead.
Stolt releases a song called “Lost America” and suddenly some heads explode at Prograchy. Hey guys, calm down. How about you actually listen to the song? Is it too much to thoughtfully digest what an artist offers, before pronouncing premature rash judgment?
The music to “Lost America” is itself not too bad. Musically, there is nothing offensive. I admit the track doesn’t do much for me, because musically it has nothing too innovative or elaborate to get me excited. But, the guitars are great, and it’s still pleasantly enjoyable to listen to, nonetheless.
And the lyrics? You guys obviously didn’t form your opinions based on anything other than a (wrong) interpretation of two words — “Lost America” — which then set you off doing free association with a bunch of complaints you have about bad politics ruining some other music.
I embed the lyric video below so you can actually review the song and its lyrics. Surprise: You’ll find the lyrics are positive. At least, they are ambiguous enough that you can still wave an American flag to them, if you wish. Most notably, and most ironically (given the rapid “straw man” attacks launched on the song), the lyrics speak repeatedly about taking the “high way” and taking the “high road.”
Moreover, you’ll be surprised to find nothing political at all in the song “Lost America.” So, what does the title mean? Well, you’ll find the song repeatedly sings, affirmatively, “you — you’re the heart of America,” which I take to be a positive affirmation of small town, heartland virtues (since that’s what the video images suggest).
It would seem to be more accurate to interpret “Lost America” as what can be rediscovered if you take a wrong turn and get lost in America. You’ll soon find yourself driving down a remote country highway, possibly rediscovering simple virtues, that are currently lost in public life, but are waiting to be found out in the heartland. (Any absence of humans in the images, well, I take that to symbolize the possible “rediscovery” of virtue as being still an open question.)
In other words, if I were the artist reading this blog, I would find the complaints about political propaganda allegedly being pushed by my music to be completely ridiculous. I would think: these writers didn’t even bother to listen before writing their “reviews.”
So, the hasty attack on “Lost America” is an attack on a straw man. As for The Tangent, if you haven’t gotten past the first song on Proxy because for some reason you think it’s unjustifiably political, well, that’s too bad, because I think Proxy is in the running for the best prog album this year. It’s completely forking awesome, my dudes.
You’ll be surprised to discover that the Proxy album takes the listener on an interesting journey that merely begins with an apparently “political” first track. I’ll explain more in my forthcoming review about the brilliance of this album. But the album cleverly takes an unexpected turn, because The Tangent quickly proceeds to self-consciously take “political protests in music” as a theme, and then subjects that theme and its youthful idealism to a relentlessly self-scrutinizing critique. It’s a brilliant development, and it remains nothing but just to its subject matter.
Similar to the case of Stolt, I find there’s nothing objectionable or offensive or propagandistic or simple-minded in the first song “Proxy” on The Tangent’s new album. The main point of the song is that it is wrong to cynically profit from war and the arms trade. When did it suddenly become beyond the purview of rock and roll to say such a thing? But besides that, what’s genius about the album is the way it then goes on to explore self-doubt about why even write such songs.
But more about that later. For now, my dissenting editorial concludes with a request: how about you guys stop ranting about politics, and simply write about the music instead?
(Indeed, that’s my way of saying: C’mon, man! I agree, let’s all take a social media chill out, and listen to good music instead. And Proxy is some really fine music.)
12 thoughts on “Lost Progarchy: Methinks Thou Doth Protest Too Much”
I agree! Seems to me the focus should be on the music not the reviewers. If artists want rant and rave then they take that risk of alienating a portion of thier audience. No problem if reviewers thoughtfully point out that a given release has a heavy political bent. Good know because some may not enjoy it. But I get enough ranting and raving on social media.
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Chris and Paul, these are fine points, and I certainly take them seriously. I think over six years, progarchy has done a wonderful job of avoiding political and religious controversy. At some point, though, we’ve earned the right (or not) to express our disagreement when others (such as Tillison and Stolt) push their own political agendas. How would we do it without looking angry? I’m asking in all sincerity–how would one go about critiquing such things?
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How about this: you actually listen to the whole album or the whole song before flipping out and denouncing the artist for being too “political.” Is that too much to ask?
And when you listen to the whole song and then the artist likens those with legitimate concerns about migrants to Heinrich Himmler and Nazis in general? Then what?
What would the Stoic response be? Even if the artist may not think your political “concerns” are as “legitimate” as you do, you can still extend the artist the courtesy of not viewing every song or album he produces through the lens of your rage over one song — especially if that one song is by another artist.
We didn’t view every song through the lens of those that we didn’t like. In the comments section of my post, Brad went so far as to give a shining counterexample of Tillison at his artistic best. That’s all the more reason to be disappointed when he indulges his worst instincts and resorts to ugly smears.
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“And when you listen to the whole song and then the artist likens those with legitimate concerns about migrants to Heinrich Himmler and Nazis in general? Then what?”
Then maybe it’s time to put on a different record. I’ve read a lot of posts here this week stating, “I get enough politics on social media,” by folks who then carry on with their own political rants on this site.
We’ve all heard “Neal Morse is too religious,” and now it’s Band X is “too political.” Fine, but get it out of your system on Twitter and leave us to enjoy our nerd rock without the politics. We, too, get enough of it on social media.
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A more than fair point, Jay. I posted a very non-angry review of Oak earlier today. My way of moving on.
Trust me,Jay, after Tillison disgustingly likened his fellow pro-Brexit countrymen to Nazis, I most certainly did put on a new album.
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Second mention of Oak in this thread, a band I’d never heard of, so my way of moving on will be to read your review and see what these fellers are all about. 🙂
My issue with Proxy is it hasn’t held my interest musically. I haven’t even delved into the lyrics yet because the music sounded no different than anything else The Tangent have done, which has caused me to lose total interest in the album. They are starting to sound a lot like Neal Morse’s most prog album in that nothing is really new or innovative anymore – it all kind of sounds the same as what has come before. I can’t help but wonder if the rather poor lyrical content contributes to that. When Tillison focuses on cultural critique, like on Le Sacre du Travail and A Spark in the Aether, the music is also taken to an original and transformative level. When the lyrical content is cheap and easy (i.e., political without substance), the music ends up being the same. I doubt anything else this year will top Oak’s new album for me – now there is a band that is unique and innovative musically and lyrically.
The funny thing I realized when reading Brad’s articles was how I’ve been thinking recently that perhaps The Tangent would benefit from Roine Stolt returning to the group. I never saw him as being overtly political in nature… and maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt. Nothing has really ruffled my feathers this year with regards to prog artists getting political. Last year and the year before were the years for feather ruffling. *Cough Nick Beggs *cough Roger Waters. Even if this recent discussion about politics in prog may be unwarranted, the fundamental premise of anti-Americanism permeating the genre from our European friends is certainly accurate. It is everywhere on social media, and it has indeed infiltrated the music. I think Stolt’s song just happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back rather than being the sole originator of this recent outrage.
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