This post started as a counterpoint to those earlier posts from Brad and from Erik, but then our esteemed Time Lord responded with a spirited defence of the music that seems to have offended sensibilities so greatly, and for a while I wondered whether to abandon these ramblings entirely. If there is a point left to make, perhaps it is to reiterate something I said the last time the thorny issue of politics reared its ugly head in these hallowed virtual halls.
My point then was simply this: I don’t want any artist to keep politics out of their music, even if this means they end up pushing a viewpoint that I disagree with vehemently.
Why? Well, it has to do with passion. Many of us get very passionate about our politics; you only have to read those earlier posts to see that! And passion is also a necessary fuel for art. Can the artist separate the passionate feelings that stimulate great art from those that feed their political beliefs? I’m not sure that’s possible. Perhaps hearing something we might disagree with is just the price we have to pay for great art – for that other stuff that resonates and inspires, rather than mystifying or angering us.
To be honest, I’m rather surprised that we aren’t hearing a lot more proselytising in prog right now. After all, the tectonic plates of global politics seem to have shifted significantly over the past couple of years. And I would hope that all rational and reasonable people near the centre ground, whether they lean left or right, can agree that we’ve seen some disturbing trends – not least in the rise of far-right extremism.
I think this must be why I take exception to some of the criticism that Erik levels at Andy Tillison for his ‘bait and switch’ on the Slow Rust album. Was it clichéd? For sure. Clumsy and melodramatic? Probably. But considering the toxic and febrile atmosphere surrounding Brexit, where a politician was murdered by an avowed neo-Nazi and synagogues were vandalised in the aftermath of the referendum result, I believe wholeheartedly that Andy had a valid point.
I’ve heard none of this apparently controversial new material from The Flower Kings and The Tangent. (I no longer listen to advance copies because I’m so bad at reviewing, and it’s not fair to the artists to treat this stuff as ‘free music’ without the quid pro quo of a review.) Thus I can’t comment on the specific bones of contention that other Progarchists have picked over so ardently. But I feel I must repeat something that I said two years ago in my first musings on this troublesome issue:
An artist communicates their thoughts and feelings to us through their music: their thoughts and feelings, which may align with or contradict our own. As listeners, we are free to accept or reject the message, but we don’t get to decide its contents.
Thus I ask, tentatively, and with the greatest of respect, whether it might be more constructive in the future to keep the politics out of Progarchy, rather than arguing that it should be kept out of prog?