Based on my brother Thomas’s recommendation, I really like Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. At first I found Maron to be kind of coarse and hard to listen to, but then I realized that his personality really has an authentic way of opening up his interviewees somehow.
Maron recently interviewed Steve Albini, and I was a bit surprised by some of Albini’s opinions about prog.
First, he said that he wasn’t really a fan of prog (this wasn’t really a surprise), but he did say that he admires (I’m paraphrasing) that prog was sort of an act of rebellion at the time, on the “fringes” of rock.
But second, he said that he recently listened to the song ‘Roundabout’ by Yes and came to the following conclusion: the song is “essentially the entire career of the band Rush condensed and executed to perfection.”
His claim was, basically, that Yes masterfully and perfectly accomplished in 8 1/2 minutes what Rush was trying to do with their entire careers.
What do you think of this claim?
Here’s why he is wrong. Yes used prog virtuosity and compositional techniques in the service of fantastical themes, fractured yet dreamlike lyrics, and optimistic, mystical, often spiritual themes. The vision behind Yes was Jon Anderson’s Elrond, but the vision behind Rush is Peart’s Ayn Rand meets Carl Sagan. Also Yes’s compositions themselves relied more on melodic counterpoint and a greater preponderance of dreamy tones.
Rush on the other hard, used only some of the same techniques (virtuosity and prog composition), burnished them with a harder more masculine and aggressive edge and used them in the service of questioning society, advancing rationalism and skepticism, emphasizing the importance of the individual, and rejecting superstitious or supernatural sources of meaning. Finally, Rush is more rhythm based, less melodic, but more driving and tense. Did it occur to Steve that the two bands also make completely different use of their instruments? Yes revolved around grand sounding keyboards, more organic guitar sounds, and a lighter touch on the drums, while Rush used keyboards mostly for flourishes and flavor, metallic guitar tones, and muscular percussion. The differences are stark and numerous.
If there isn’t room in the world for both Rush and Yes, two of the most skilled and interesting bands in the last 40 years, then we might as well give up on music altogether– 90% of which can’t hold a candle to either of those fine bands.
I agree with you, but that level of analysis is probably going to be lost on someone who isn’t a fan. Like for instance, I can’t really tell the difference between Irish fiddle and Cape Breton fiddle, but someone else could probably write several paragraphs about the difference.
I also have to disagree with this because they are two entirely different bands and sure they dabble in similar elements of Prog but Rush went one way and Yes went another way and also coming from two different countries has plenty to do with this as well, different influences, different surroundings, pretty much everything is different and it’s like comparing apples to tires. It’s like saying who’s the greatest guitar player of all time, it’s BS because they are all so different in styles you simply CANNOT compare. Just as bands are totally different. No Comparison whatsoever. Interesting concept but the argument is invalid.
So in your opinion, the difference between Rush and Yes is equivalent to the difference between (say) Rush and Bad Company, or Rush and One Direction, or or Rush and Vivaldi, or Rush and Kanye West? Seems to me that asking a Sonic Youth or a Kanye West fan to differentiate between Yes and Rush would be kind of difficult. You could try to argue with them or explain the difference (as you have above), but that just shows that the difference isn’t easily intuited, it has to be learned.
I appreciate your view! Thanks!
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Every artist is inspired by another artist agreed. But yes the difference isn’t easily intuited but has to be learned and as I mention on my site, “Discipline comes at the cost of listening. Listening is something you acquire from records. Records are made from discipline.” So in order to understand differences in bands, genres and albums etc one must listen and absorb the music being played to hear the subtle or major differences in every band you listen to. Most welcome and thank you for that post!
I think Shellac needs to make a prog album, or make a Rush tribute band album of Rush hits.