My best of 2014, Part II.  But I’m Not Dead Yet.

I, for one, completely disbelieve that “rock is dead” or almost dead.  Many folks I could care less about believe this, and many folks I think the world of believe it as well.  I just can’t accept it.

If rock—or what passes as rock—has been so commercialized and corporatized to die because the huge companies don’t know how to sell, promote, and market a band or singer any more, too bad and tough luck.  My guess is that that band or singer lost its or her or his soul long, long ago.  Too bad by far.  If rock is corporatized, it’s really not rock.

And, frankly, I hope Rolling Stone and NME each die a quick death.  They were never more than glossy catalogues anyway.  They wanted conformity, not excellence.  In their pretense to fight the Establishment, they were the Establishment.  I could start citing Marshall McLuhan and Noam Chomsky here—two thinkers I admire immensely—but it’s not the intent of this post.  Despite my nasty introduction, this is meant to be a post of celebration.

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The Incredible and the Magnificent of 2014.  Where to even start?  So much amazing music came out this year.  So very, very far from dead.  Not even close.

In no particular order (except for what I consider the absolute best-est of the year).

third day NAONorth Atlantic Oscillation, THE THIRD DAY.  I don’t think it would be possible for these guys to disappoint.  It’s obvious they put everything they have into the very structure and fabric of their music.  While I probably still prefer the more Mark Hollis-esque FOG ATLANTIC, The Third Day really offers some electronic beauty.

a1557280289_10The Black Vines, RETURN OF THE SPLENDID BASTARDS.  Doubting my claim that rock is very much alive?  Pop this baby into the CD player, and I give you Exhibit A of how great and alive rock is.  Schnikees, this baby rocks.  This rocks like rock should.  Clever, intense, and driving.

0002788885_10The Ben Cameron Project, TIPPING POINT.  Only two tracks long, TIPPING POINT is one of the most interesting and traditionally proggish of all prog this year.  An album is integrity and beauty.  You have to immerse yourself in this one.  You’ll be well rewarded for doing so.

rubensteinJason Rubenstein, NEW METAL FROM OLD BOXES.  Talk about putting the “progressive” in progressive rock.  No, not the Woodrow Wilson kind of progressive.  The real kind—the kind that does actually advance something.  Rubenstein is a genius, and his music shows just how much creativity and glory one person can offer in this rather tragic world.  This is the soundtrack to every Dirty Harry movie that mattered, but presented with 2014 technology and sensibilities.

galahad11Galahad, 3 EPS.  Who wouldn’t love Stu Nicholson?  God made the man for us all to love and admire.  Here, he takes prog toward House music.  This is highly danceable prog, and yet it maintains that high intelligence that Galahad has always brought to music.  There’s nothing really new, just new ways of looking at old things.  A great success.

glass hammer ode to echoGlass Hammer, ODE TO ECHO.  Again, who wouldn’t love Steve Babb?  The guy radiates charisma.  This outing sees Glass Hammer turn toward the mythic and the pagan.  While generally open about faith, GH follows the path of C.S. Lewis, noting that the Christian is also the pagan, at least in his or her imagination.  The bass thumps, the drums rock (phew!), the vocals soar, as do the keyboards and the guitars.

And, the adventure continues in Part III. . . .

Rock is NOT Dead

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 7.28.05 PMI must admit, I’m so utterly frustrated by all of the “Rock is dead” doomsayers over the past week that I’d like to wretch (or, retch–you know, either way).  Really big time.

Here’s the latest complaint–from the London Telegraph of all things (isn’t this supposed to be one of the respectable papers, or am I confusing it with the Daily Mail?)–to follow laments from CLASSIC ROCK mag earlier this year, a member of KISS who seems to resent much of life, and every single human who has decided to hate U2: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/11089923/The-decline-and-fall-of-rock-and-roll.html

[A quick side note.  You have Apple and you don’t like U2?  Easy–hit the image of the album and drag it to your trash.  Your Mac will then ask you if you would like to delete or hide.  Deleting it actually deletes it.  No offensive U2 ever need show up in your library again, and you will have accomplished this is far less time than it took for the album to download to your computer.  In fact, it will take you less time to delete the album forever from your personal space than it will for you to write a comment on the web or even an article for a respectable English newspaper about how much you dislike U2, Bono, Apple, Catholics, Apple pies, Irishmen, or whatever your current dislike is.]

I have no idea if I’m using this term correctly, as I’m not English.  But, my first thought is: what a wanker that Telegraph writer must be.  Did I use the term correctly?  What say you, Mr. Andrew Woods?  Here in the British colony of the United States, we’d just call you a prig.

Of course corporations try to conform us.  They give us lots of good stuff, but they also make the world a lot less interesting. They want us as consumers, and consumers are much easier to manipulate when only the same tepid and pallid mush is being served.  Is the Telegraph suddenly a not-for-profit paper?

The next time a corporation tries to sell you something, just walk away.  It’s really not that hard.  Turn away from the offensive thing and move in the other direction.

Growing up in Kansas, I knew next to nothing about NME.  What I did know: NME looked like a bunch of quasi-trash porn that wealthy children in Kansas City might purchase out of boredom.  I didn’t pay attention to it or to Rolling Stone.  When Rush came out with a new album, I bought it.  When Tears for Fears came out with a new album, I bought it.  When Kate Bush came out with a new album, I bought it.  When Talk Talk came out with a new album, I often bought two copies, one as backup.  I didn’t look to NME or Rolling Stone or whatever rag was available at the time telling me what to think and wear and write and read.  I worked very, very hard for my music collection.  Sure, I made a few missteps, such as once purchasing a Howard Jones album.  But, I also collected a lot of great music, much of which I treasure to this very day.

What many music journalists, record labels, and professional wankers have yet to figure out is that the market for art is now as decentralized as humanly possible.  The internet gives us as much space to be excellent as it does to be mediocre.

Some of the music being made right–including and especially the vast majority of music we have the privilege of reviewing at progarchy–is some of the best rock music ever made.  Here and now.  Not merely there and yesterday.  Here and now.  Right here, right now.  Rock is so far from being dead that I can barely keep up with so many enticing, interesting, and dramatic releases.

The author of the Telegraph piece can’t see beyond the very corporations he so hates and, thus, he becomes a conformist in his own cry against conformity.  Face it, Mr. Andrew Telegraph, you are the establishment.  And, from what I can tell, you always have been–especially when you read magazines such as NME, then or now.

One last thought.  I really don’t care if U2 recorded forty-five minutes of The Edge working in his back garden.  Any group of artists who can write and record October have earned a position of respect in the world.  I, for one, will give them the benefit of the doubt, and presume good (and, yes, profit-seeking) motives on the parts of Mr. Bono and Mr. Cook.

On Mr. Andrew Woods?  The jury is still out.

[P.S.  I’m glad Mr. Woods mentioned his daughter.  My thirteen-year old daughter can name every member of Rush, Big Big Train, and The Tangent, and she knows almost every lyric written by FROST*.  Care to compete?]

NME: 20 Facts about Radiohead’s Ok, Computer

ok-computerCan it really be 15 years? A whole 15 years since Hanson’s ‘Mmmbop’ was No.1? June 1997 was quite the month for seismic rock masterpieces chronicling our millennial woes and sticky fears, and Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ was right there in the claustrophobic thick of it. To toast its birthday (16 June), here are 20 things you might not know about it.

To keep reading, click here.  Full article at NME by Matthew Horton.