Friday, October 27, 2006

The New Godfathers Of Modern Indie Rock

1972, Atlantic

How the hell do i become a fan of a 70's progressive rock band thru indie pop music? Even though it might sound stupid, that's what happened to me recently.

A few months ago i listened to At War With The Mystics by the Flaming Lips for the very first time and it being the first time, i pretty much hated the album on impact, but i listened to it again later on, this time my opinion had changed but at the same time something came out in my mind. On that second listen i gave to the album by Wayne Coyne and co., the only two songs i wasn't entirely convinced of were "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and "Free Radicals" but from "Sound Of Failure..." on, the music sounded better as it went along yet strangely familiar. At first, the music seemed to me to be a little Pink Floydian , but that wasn't exactly it, what it really reminded me of was of Yes, some of those riffs where the guitar and bass interlock with each other, some keyboard moments and even Wayne's voice sometimes would have a very Jon Anderson quality, not to mention the vocal harmonies; it was such the influence from the 70's band i was hearing from my speakers that i ended up downloading Fragile on the spot just to be sure about the comparison and, of course, the elemental parts were there, with enough retention of characteristics from both bands to remain original. That and i fell in love with Fragile.

Case number two, i recently listened to the Crane Wife by the Decemberists; it's first song didn't impress me much, sounding like pirate R.E.M. or something, but the second song, which is 12 minutes long and it's the best song i ever hear this band play and would you believe it's because it sounds like a mixture of the classic Decemeberists audio mixed with, yep, Yes. The phantom returns thru this very album.

But, why the hell Yes? They are supposed rock dinosaurs that were terminated by punk in the 70's and was more than dead, weren't they? How do you go from Rick Wakeman's capes to Colin Meloy and Wayne Coyne? what does it bring to them? How the hell do i become a fan of a 70's progressive rock band thru indie pop music? To answer that, we need to understand Yes.

Yes' music has always been a collision of odd time signatures, strange and extended arrangement and complex pop melodies and harmonies, influenced by everybody from the Beatles and the Beach Boys to Simon & Garfunkel (who they covered thru a 10 minute version of their "America"). It's creativity and musical inconformity meeting the art of songwriting and pop arrangements; while their contemporaries were more concerned with improvisation (King Crimson), the art of performance (Genesis) or standing in one leg while playing 3 hour flute solos and guessing how many people are you boring and how ridiculous you look at the same time (Jethro Tull); if you fast forward 30 years on, we see that the attitude towards instruments has changed and it's commonly accepted by a lot of people the fact that it doesn't make you punker not knowing how to play instead of knowing how to play and that, if the attitude and the songs are good, technical ability can actually contribute into making good music. If you gather all these elements with the timeless appeal of a well written song then welcome to the year 2006.

Yes was formed in the 60's and went thru some lineup changes until they more or less settled for Jon Anderson (vocals), Chris Squire (bass), Steve Howe (guitar), Rick Wakeman (Keyboards) and Bill Bruford (drums); the band was just coming out of obscurity thanks to their previous album, The Yes Album, having spawned a hit single with "I've Seen All Good People", but the band hurried right back to the studio, with just a few songs, so they decided to record what they had so far and that each of the members of the band will contribute a song to fill the album up. What could have turned into a complete disaster turned into a very cohesive album, with the solo contributions working as interludes that bridged one song into another, binging on the mood swings in between them; the main songs are far from bad, "Heart Of Sunrise" it's the only song in the album you can truly call "prog rock" since it combines dextreous musical passages with an epic song mode, "South Side Of The Sky" is heavier and more focused, just as "Long Distance Runaround) as well, both of which thread the record in the middle; but what hooked me to this record is "Roundabout", a song that manages to be frenetic, multipart, without a lot of technique, well done vocal arrangements and keyboards that add, don't substract.

Maybe Yes is not for everyone and maybe you won't like it, but i wanted to talk about a band i have been listening a lot lately and that resonates on the grooves of the Crane Wife and the War With The Mystics, and they are celestial.

Yes - Roundabout.mp3
Yes - South Side Of The Sky.mp3
Yes - The Fish (Shindleria Preamaturus).mp3


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