Did Prog rock die back in the 1970s? If so, its zombie corpse is alive and rocking in a thoroughly modern way.
On Friday I went to the last night of the ‘Stabbing a Dead Horse‘ tour at the Lexington in London. This tour was a week long affair involving Trojan Horse, Knifeworld and The Fierce and the Dead, that had taken in several cities around the UK and by all accounts been rather successful.
Friday certainly was. I wasn’t able to stay for Knifeworld’s set (which is a shame, cos they’re bloody good on record) but I did catch the other two bands.
Trojan Horse are a four piece from Manchester: all stop-start rhythms, hard-rock, mellotron and lots and lots of facial hair. There’s a danger that prog can be inaccessable the first time you hear it, less immediate than simple four chord rock songs. That isn’t the case with Trojan Horse. The music might have been more complicated than the average rock band but even though I hadn’t heard them before I got it immediately.
The vocals were tight and even contained the odd hook (Yo ho ho!) and the whole set was delivered with such passion that you couldn’t help but fall in love with the hairy scamps. The through-composed, constantly changing structures could have lead to concentrated, introspective performances, but Trojan Horse were having none of that – they played with all the energy and loseness of a three chord punk band, but with none of the pretention.
(Hang…. wasn’t punk supposed to be less pretentious than prog…)
The highlight of the night for me was The Fierce and the Dead. I’ve known Matt Stevens online for a few years but this was the first time I’d got round to seeing his band live (and to discovering that Matt is very tall. People are supposed to be smaller in real life aren’t they? But no, Matt is far far taller than his twitter profile pic would have you believe).
The Fierce and the Dead are somewhere between the Pixies, the Shadows and 80’s era King Crimson. Don’t believe me? Go listen to them, it’s true.
Once again this set completely failed to fit into prog stereotypes. All right, there were twisty time signatures and not a verse-chorus structure anywhere in sight, but neither was there any of the self indulgence the genre is supposed to be guilty of. TFATD’s performance was exuberant and celebratory and all about entertaining the audience.
Stevens has been talking on facebook about the idea of a prog revival – or perhaps some new proggish movement that these sort of bands fit into. This gig supports that notion. The Stabbing a Dead Horse tour filled a London venue with a couple of hundred people and played complicated, silly music to an appreciative audience of couple of hundred.
Which gives me hope as a music fan and as someone who plays music of a vaguely similar bent (indeed the new album is going to be far more rocky than the last two, and I’ll be seeing about finding a drummer and doing some full band gigs next year). If British prog did die back in the 70s (it didn’t) then the Stabbing a Dead Horse tour has Frankensteined it back to life.