Quite the provocative title, no?
I don't want to pretend that I am some all knowing sage when it comes to progressive music. I've listened to a lot...this is true. And I tend to be all over the map...I'll go from zeuhl to neo to prog metal to RiO to Canterbury without so much as a blink of the eye. For me, music is music, and music I like is music I like. I try not to look at things...well, I do look at them deeper than that, but at the most elemental levels, it all boils down to that spark...the frisson that occurs when a band and a listener connect on some deeper level.
The problem occurs when that connection begins to wear out.
And it happens.
And when it happens, I am left wondering if there is actually fault to be laid. Have I grown to expect too much of a band, and they no longer meet expectations that perhaps they cannot in good faith ever meet? Or has the band moved past me...or me past the band?
I look at a band like The Flower Kings, perhaps the most currently in vogue band to bad mouth. For me, and despite the protestations of their most fervent fans, they have not released an album which has enthused and thrilled (OK, perhaps overkill there, but go with me on this) since Unfold the Future in 2003...and even there, only in part. Listening to them live, they certainly have the skills to pull off their compositions, and they play well live. But the material, for this listener, seems mired in a tried and true method, based around 20 minute epics on every album and a sound that has become trademark. Have I grown to a point where the familiar no longer exerts pull...or has the band become static?
I think it's really a combination of the two...and at the same time, one of us has changed, and the other hasn't.
Should I expect a band to follow my tastes? Not necessarily. At the same time, while I certainly want them to remain true to their muses (or muse, if it is a single band member who exerts the most influence on the band's oeuvre), growth...progress...progression...occurs when a band pushed beyond the familiar.
There are a number of bands I could say the same thing for. As an example, I find it odd that the release of a new Dream Theater album finds me suddenly realising that their previous release wasn't quite so bad, really. Spock's Beard is a band that has changed their sound radically, in much the same way Genesis did with the departure of Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett...and while I am glad they are staking out a new sonic arena in which to work, I find it generally of less interest to me these days. At the same time, I see a band like Marillion, who seems perfectly capable of releasing a brilliant album (Marbles) followed by utter dross (Somewhere Else), and doing so repeatedly. I'm sure each of these bands are following their muse...and more and more frequently, I am finding myself unwilling to follow.
There's more to explore here...but that will have to wait for another post, and another time.