The Hobbit Question is not the only issue raised by “Far From Useless, Far From Good: Marillion’s Script For a Jester’s Tear” , the article I mentioned in an earlier post. From that article:
Now, the post-punk consensus broke down a long time ago, in case you didn’t notice, but a basic hostility to prog (or at least to particular elements of prog) is one of the few things that’s lingered, like a race memory.
“Why Is Prog Rock So Inadequate, Simplistic, Reductive, Portentous and Perfect?” brings up similar issues, mentions the lingering prog resistance of the critical establishment, and asks:
What is it about prog rock in general that makes these self-satisfied scribes so uncomfortable? That is a rhetorical question.
Edward Macan, Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture (NY: Oxford UP, 1997) has one explanation: “Above all, the critics’ likes and dislikes must be understood against the background of the neo-Marxist view of music that they embraced.” Macan refers to what he sees as the most influential critics in this regard as sort of a compound creature, “Marsh-Bangs-Frith-Christgau” and by “neo-Marxist,” Macan means a cocktail of objections to the prog bourgeois: overall elitism, apolitical escapism, inauthenticity. Such objections were not about the demographic makeup of the musicians under the critical eye, but were, rather, tied to specific musical trends and choices within the prog world, preeminently deemphasizing the blues and tapping into the classical music tradition. In addition, the extreme commercial success of some prog bands, such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, was another reason to object to them (“selling out”), somewhat in conflict, as Macan points out, to the accusations of elitism.
It’s a reasonable description of the critical state of affairs and a plausible explanation for the continuing ill repute of prog, but if it were merely a question of trends in music criticism, it would seem that prog hate would rotate in and out over the years, since there’s nothing critics love more than to turn on each other. My own additional speculations in forthcoming posts….