Rock: Progressive rock? But this is the 90s

Just when you thought you'd heard the last of prog rock, Genesis and Yes decide to make a comeback. Mark Wilson was there

They're back. The twin pillars of Seventies prog rock, the progenitors of pomp, parsimony's public enemies, Genesis and Yes, are fresh from producing new albums and are both currently on tour. Thirty years in the business has obviously not dulled their enthusiasm (they surely can't be in it for money), but the new product (some songs dare to come in at under five minutes!) bears little resemblance to the conceptual structures of old.

But surely Genesis are no more following the departure of crafty cockney Phil Collins? A passing acquaintance with the history of prog rock bands reveals that having the same personnel for two albums in a row is something of a luxury. When Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1975, the music press were quick to write the band's obituaries. At least 23 years too early as it turned out: Collins took over singing duties in addition to drumming and, when guitarist Steve Hackett departed in 1977, bass player Mike Rutherford traded four strings for six. And as for Yes ... keyboard player Rick Wakeman joined the band in 1972, left in 1974, rejoined in 1977, left in 1979, rejoined the then Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe (bass player Chris Squire owned the name Yes and blocked their use of it after a split) in 1988, rejoined a reunited Yes in 1991 and had left by 1994. Clear so far?

Perfectly. But what was the secret of their success in the face of these staff upheavals? It certainly wasn't the search for the elusive three- minute pop gem. In 1973, Yes gave the world Tales from Topographic Oceans, a double album featuring four tracks (no, really), with such crisp and cogent lyrics as "Dawn of light lying between a silence and sold sources chased amid fusions of wonder in moments hardly seen forgotten".

Oh, of course. And Genesis? Less turgid, but partial to the odd 20-minute symphonic work (eg "Supper's Ready") and whimsical-cum-classical lyrics. How about "From a dense forest of tall dark pinewoods, Mount Ida rises like an island/ Within a hidden glade, nymphs had kept a child/ Hermaphroditus, son of gods"?

Not a lot about falling in love or losing your job then. Wake up at the back (I know the keyboard solo was 11 minutes long but you've got to concentrate). This is progressive rock, pushing back the frontiers of what's possible musically, not run-of-the-mill pop.

But who would want to listen to that kind of nonsense in the oh-so-ironic Nineties? Apart from its obvious influence on Eighties bands such as Marillion, prog rock has been a big (if largely unacknowledged - it's just too embarrassing) influence on the sound of bands like Radiohead and the "post-rock" noodlers Tortoise ie long "pieces" divided into a number of "movements", each with distinct themes, characterised by quirky time signatures (wave goodbye to 4/4) and unexpected chord progressions.

But just as that type of music gains some sort of currency...

Exactly. Our mainstays of progressive rock try something else. To be fair, they both embraced pop and its `aunty ways some time ago, with some success. Now though, Yes have wafted towards a fey, New Age-adled, tinny pop idiom. Fans will be pleased to note, however, that lead singer Jon Anderson's trademark singing-an-entire-song-on-one-note style still survives. Genesis, on the other hand, with new vocalist Ray Wilson (formerly of Levi's 501 soundtrackers Stiltskin), want to return to a "darker" sound, "to the old melodrama". First results are not encouraging.

Genesis play Manchester tonight; Yes play Hammersmith Apollo on Friday 24 April

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

    £18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

    Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

    £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future