The Once and Future Floyd

20 03 2010

I got into Pink Floyd in 1986–right after The Final Cut came out, and right before Roger Waters left. 20-odd years later, Waters’ departure doesn’t seem so momentous, but at the time it felt like the end of the band. My timing with Marillion and Bauhaus were similar. I became enamored with the idea of living through a band’s career, experiencing the evolution of sound and performance as it happens, rather than piecing it all together after the fact. Most times when I thought I had that opportunity, the band in question broke up after 2 or 3 albums. But not always. (My standout success story for band life-cycle synchronization has turned out to be Skinny Puppy.)

Another notion that took hold back then was finding the “next Floyd.” As far as I was concerned, Pink Floyd set the standard for music; deeply felt, densely layered, artfully conceived and executed. Again, in hindsight, my teenaged assessment doesn’t necessarily hold up, but the idea of discovering the new act that would fill the Floyd void has stuck with me. I’ve mentally assigned the role to various bands over the years (Tangerine Dream, The Legendary Pink Dots, even Juno Reactor) but none ever really felt right.

Until now. The true heirs of Pink Floyd trod this earth, and their name is Porcupine Tree. They have a similar mix of hard and soft sounds, incorporating up-to-date metal and hard rock sensibilities. Both lyrics and music are varied and fascinating, with hefty doses of experimentation. I know there are one or two Floyd fans who read this–guys, check out Porcupine Tree, you won’t regret it.

It turns out there are all sorts of new prog acts carying on more or less in the Floyd tradition; I’ve learned about them primarily through the podcast The Rogues Gallery. Porcupine Tree is the clear standout. Few others can match their range of tone or depth of content. Riverside is another excellent new prog act. I haven’t heard a lot of their stuff–it may be that they surpass Porcupine Tree, but I doubt it.

While we’re on the subject I also have to mention Ayreon. Troy describes them best:

“It’s like if a 15 year old boy had excellent guitar chops, a full mixing studio & access to the nation’s best (worst?) heavy metal vocalists, this is what he’d come up with. This is the Bollywood version of Heavy Metal.  Tons of sub-genres mixed into a meat-grinder with a much larger, longer, and stronger version spit out the other side.  This is a bollywood, heavy metal sausage. Rock Opera meets Space Opera. And it would seem that he has no idea how hilarious it is.  Which makes it even better.”

It’s impossible to take Ayreon seriously, even for me; certainly not as seriously as he takes himself. Even so, the music is totally addictive. It’s like going back to some beloved tv cartoon from childhood, and finding the production values on par with Dreamworks.

Thanks to Steve for introducing me to the new prog! And as always to the cool kids; stuff your irony!

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