Critical Surgery: PopMatters, Prog, and Genesis – A Music Review Dissection

by criticalhit009

In my old blog, I wrote about my qualms with PopMatters as a criticism site, and while going through my old writing, I feel I must revisit this issue with a sharper critical edge than what I previously had before. Last time I remained positive and recommended changes towards a more holistic method of music criticism. This time, I bring out the claws. I want to rectify this poor piece or criticism and analyze its rhetoric.

What follows is a microscopic dissection of an older review of a Genesis: 1976-1982 box set by a music reviewer of the site. What I find primarily deeply problematic is the author’s approach to prog rock, which is entirely uncharitable, among other comments that will arise as I go through the review. Not everything in this review is bad or inaccurate, and I won’t cover *everything* the author, Tim O’Neil, writes, but I will argue with the majority of the text directly. Any text I omitted is for conciseness of this dissection, usually because there is nothing in need of commenting on. But before we dive in, let’s take a closer look at the author.

I did a little research on the Tim O’Neil’s writing background at PopMatters to better understand his position in how he approaches material. From reading a few of his reviews of material I am familiar with, it appears that he often digresses on semi-related arguments in his reviews. In his review of Green Day’s American Idiot review, he spends at least 2 paragraphs dismissing punk purists, and actual discussion of the album does not begin until the 11th paragraph.

His review of Alan Parsons Project I Robot has a similar start as his Genesis review, discussing how he doesn’t really care about the band or its music. It’s another article I could dissect, but suffice to say his anti-prog, or rather, anti-excess leaning shows up. Which prompts again, why reviews a bands work you don’t particularly like? His review of They Might Be Giants’ The Else, which begins with a statement that he stopped caring about the band along time ago, helps name what he doesn’t like in music: “indulgences [and] digressions.”

In sum, it appears the author:

1. Likes to trash work of artists he doesn’t like.

2. Likes to digress into semi-related topics in which he has a vested opinion.

3. NEEDS a (better) editor.

These are problems that arise in his review of the Genesis 1976-1982 box set as well. Now, let’s get onto the review in question. It begins with this:

“This is neither the time nor the place to mount a serious defense of progressive rock, or as it is most commonly known (and shall be referred to heretofore) ‘prog rock’,”

This is a review, not a cultural commentary on prog rock. Nobody was likely expecting an evaluation of the genre itself. (For those unfamiliar, I highly recommend this AllMusic write up of prog rock.)

“I am definitely not the person to make such an argument: as a rule, I generally can’t stand the stuff. Get away from me with your Emerson, Lake and Palmer; forget your Yes; don’t even start with the Rush. I ain’t about to hear it, no sir.”

Stop right there. If you don’t like prog, why should I care about your review of a collection of prog albums? It’s probably safe to assume you have little knowledge or experience with prog, so how can you possibly claim to give meaningful insight about the specific genre without overgeneralizing or unfairly rejecting it? True objectivity is impossible with reviewing, but this blatant disregard for the whole genre coats the review with an insular, close-minded perspective.

“Prog rock is perhaps the least well-regarded subgenre of rock & roll in the music’s history.”

The statement is vague and misleading by not setting any parameters. Was it the least well-regarded for its time? Currently? Critically, or commercially? Britain certainly had a backlash against it in the 80s, only to have a revival much later.  Notably in prog history is the development of punk as a reaction to the abstract concepts of prog through its visceral aesthetic. But in America, on the other hand, prog never died out. What about all the other countries with significant prog presence like Germany and Italy? Bands like NEU!, Kraftwerk, and Can are relatively universally liked. Suffice it to say that prog was not and is not *universally* reviled. The author’s broad claim to substantiate his dislike of prog is an unfair generalization.

“You’d have to work pretty hard to get any further from the music’s origins in the sweltering Memphis recording studios of Sun Records.”

The nostalgia is deep with this one, as well as the emphasis on embodiment likely due to rock and roll’s namesake: rocking and rolling, a euphemism for sex. But this statement ignores the fact that the prog rock’s origins are largely British. Prog therefore has a distinct historical and geographical separation from American rock. This sentence is also where the author sets implicitly values a kind of musical embodiment different from what most prog values, depending on the artist. In the case of Gabriel-era Genesis at least, Gabriel’s costumed stage presence can attest to a more theatrical embodiment than what most rock suggests.

“Rock and roll—and hip-hop and house and outlaw country and any other derivate you can bother to mention—always works best when it keeps at least a jaundiced eye on the primal grime and gristle of its forerunners.”

Now we see what the author values most: the nostalgia for grit and tradition in his music, asserting that anything without such reverence is lacking. I would point to the various rock genres, such as the plethora of indie rock categories, that ignore or outright deny this kind of tradition: do they not “work best” because of this? Of course not. Regardless, the statement’s purpose is to attempt to assert what prog rock is lacking and degenerate it as an lesser music style with standards I find egregious. I suspect that the author thought about what prog rock *doesn’t* do, and choose to assert that those certain traits are what are essential for good rock and roll in order to dismiss the genre.

“Prog rock is what happened when a bunch of English college students got it into their heads to amputate rock music from its proletarian roots and tart it up with the ambitions of “fine” art.”

1. They weren’t all college students, or English for that matter, least we forget the all the prog scenes in other countries such as America, Germany, and Italy.

2. A class argument, eh? Rock is the proletariat, by the proletariat? By these standards, the author must hate Vampire Weekend. To further critique this argument, Genesis, has a number of songs discussing the working class, albeit in lyrical or fantastical settings. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, a whole 2-disc concept album, is centered around a vagabond falling down the rabbit hole hidden beneath New York City. Genesis may be an exception in that way, but that’s the band this review is supposed to be talking about, so it has its relevance.

3. There are high ambitions to create a more cultured product. This is bad….why exactly? Because that’s not what rock and roll is for? Should one reject David Bowie’s earlier, excellent work then, because of its glam rock aesthetic and complex concepts? Focus on the execution, not merely the premise.

Alright, two paragraphs into the review, and it’s been nothing but bashing prog rock for … existing, basically.

“All of this is of course quite ironic, because the critical and artistic establishments never cared for the enervated excess of prog rock to begin with: the music’s heyday was brief, and unlike almost every other genre to be created in the cyclical history of pop music, it has never really come back into favor. There are, of course, always some exceptions—but even the neo-proggy likes of Coheed & Cambria and the Mars Volta carry themselves with a punk-infused rock-star swagger that remains diametrically opposed to the deracinated psuedo-intellectual twaddle of, say, Tarkus or Tales from Topographic Oceans. As no less an eminence than Robert Christgau once said in reference to Yes, ‘what flatulent quasisymphonies!'”

The Mars Volta has rock star swagger? Um… no. They are pretty proggy, with intricate, layered, lengthy compositions. Their accompanying album artwork might give a different impression of them, but they are most certainly prog. Why are we talking about them anyway, aren’t we supposed to be reviewing a collection of Genesis albums?

I’m concerned with the emphasis with dialectics here, privileging the visceral over the heady. Why must a more visceral stage presence be diametrically opposed to concept art? That reeks of a kind of reverse Gnosticism, interestingly enough.

Also,  Robert Christgau is a well known for hating prog rock. Quoting him comes as no surprise.

“So, what are we doing here with a giant box of “classic” Genesis on our desks? Haven’t we just spent the previous 300 words or so delivering as boisterous a dismissal of 1970s prog as possible?”

Yeah man, quit wasting our time! Honestly.

“Well, yes—and I know you can hear the “but” coming—but…”

Oh, here it comes. I’mma prepare some snarky gifs.

excited ron swanson

“Genesis is slightly different. Yes, they had the 20-minute song “cycles” and the classical allusions all up in their lyrics, but they also had a few other things that their proggy peers did not: specifically, they had Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.”

Specifically, Genesis is notably different in being *very* lyrical and centered around storytelling in their songs and live performances. Next paragraph we finally get some relevant, specific historical context on the band in question, omitted for length. The review then segues into this:

“Which is where our story begins, with the release of 1976’s A Trick of the Tail. In Gabriel’s absence Collins assumes lead vocal duties for the first time. Another major, albeit much subtler change can be heard in the production of David Hentschel. Whereas previous Genesis albums had sounded uniformly murky and dour, Henschel, who had served as engineer on 1971’s Nursery Cryme, brought a much brighter, more polished sound to the group’s album’s.”

I disagree, I would not characterize Genesis’ early work as murky or dour in terms of musical aesthetics. It’s generally quite good. For instance, Hackett’s lucid guitar work in particular attests to that. As I listen to Foxtrot for instance, his acoustics are particularly buoyant and beautiful, as is the rest of the album.

“This played to their new strengths: Gabriel’s lyrical and musical preoccupations had been murky, complex and distraught, so the soggy production could be justified on those terms. But as soon as Gabriel left the tone of the music changed as well. Gabriel had been that rare prog rocker whose erudition seemed earned and passionate, not awkward and silly: the remaining members would be best served as they steered further and further away from attempting to replicate Gabriel’s distinctive songwriting voice. The newfound sonic clarity reflected the tentative new directions found in the group’s songwriting.”

Unfortunately, throughout this review, whenever he talks about Peter Gabriel, it always feels like a backhanded compliment. Gabriel’s songwriting was certainly complex and brimming with content, and yes, often obtuse and obfuscating.  But it doesn’t slosh around with “soggy production.” I agree that Gabriel can indeed wring out passion for any premise, and that his voice is too singular to imitate. And besides, Collins is a good vocalist, playing to their strengths was appropriate.

The next full paragraph, omitted for length, describes how good of a writer Gabriel was and how his “shadow looms” over Genesis’ next two albums. This begs the question as to why O’Neil doesn’t review the Gabriel-era box set of Genesis instead if he has so much to say about him.

Whether or not [Gabriel’s] kind of excessive erudition was necessary is besides the point—the fact was that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who could write those kind of songs and sound anywhere near as good as Gabriel. (For an example, see just about every other prog rock album ever recorded.)”

eye-roll

“To his credit, Gabriel eventually grew out of writing those kinds of songs as well. But hearing Collins and Co. aping Gabriel’s antiquarian preoccupations on songs like Tail’s title number (something about a circus freak with a lion’s tail), and the entirety of Wind & Wuthering (based on thematic selections from Wuthering Heights, for goodness’ sake) seems more than a little sad, like a man wearing a hand-me-down suit three sizes too big. It’s too baggy, it doesn’t fit right, and he keeps tripping over his own cuffs.”

A man wearing a hand-me-down suit, now that’s some Gabriel-like imagery right there. Yes, pity Collins and Co., for they can never reach the heights of Gabriel’s songwriting! This post-Gabriel, pre-Hackett leaving is the Genesis era I know the least about, but Trick of the Tail is pretty fun. I appreciate Stephen Thomas Erlewine observation in the allmusic review that “in almost every respect, this feels like a truer sequel to Selling England by the Pound than Lamb; after all, that double album was obsessed with modernity and nightmare, whereas this album returns the group to the fanciful fairy tale nature of its earlier records.”

Tail gets the nod for being slightly more energetic than Wuthering: “Dance on a Volcano” and “Robbery, Assault and Battery” swing with a propulsive groove that belies their arty pedigree and seems just barely to hint at something less consciously daft in the impending future.

Hey, art students can groove! Just look at Talking Heads. The insinuation that musicians with high-concept ambitions can’t rock or groove is getting old.

Squonk” is a fun proto-metal tune as well. Wuthering, however, simply doesn’t work at all: despite repeated listenings I have found the album simply impenetrable, filled with pretty instrumental filigrees but pretty gutless in execution. If anything, the album seems in retrospect to be the last hurrah of their overtly precious prog tendencies. It’s like they simply had to get the idea of writing about Wuthering Heights out of their system before they could go one step further.”

I can say that Tail is more energetic that WutheringWuthering, like Tail, is a continuation of the high-concept work that followed before, though the instinct for pop first begins to emerge on this album with songs like “Afterglow” and “Your Own Special Way.” The cover art of Wuthering can certainly appear impenetrable at times, though.

wind and wuthering

Looking at Tail, I find “Dance on a Volcano” a delight myself, especially live. It’s rhythmically intricate with a few catchy hooks, making it particularly appealing. Besides, nothing a song about humans dancing to try and appease a volcano! Tail‘s artwork is also far superior.

A Trick of the Tail

O’Neil continues by describing the transition period Genesis in …And Then There Were Three…, as Hackett left the group.  Nothing really to disagree with, so I omitted two paragraphs it for brevity. O’Neil mentions that their pop instincts suit them well in trimming down song length. I would add that for *this version* of Genesis, brevity probably suits them better, but might also have been a necessity and/or an eventuality with a trimmed lineup.

“And suddenly, with 1980’s Duke, the group found the right synthesis of their old-school prog impulses and their newfound pop savvy. The key to this success rests as much on Collins’s skill as a performer as anything else: despite a raftload of questionable creative choices made in his long and storied career, he’s still one of the best rock vocalists of his generation. I maintain that he probably would have been a lot more satisfied artistically if he’d never ended up fronting a prog rock group and had instead fronted some kind of pub-rock outfit like the Jam or Status Quo.”

Collins has a warm voice, and I find his synthesis of pop music and vocals particularly affecting. I highly doubt the brashness of the Jam or Status Quo would have been a good fit. I think this notion is more about what the *author* would find artistically satisfactory, rather than what the artist would. Besides, if Collins wanted to make music in a rougher style, he probably wouldn’t have gone into mainstream 80s pop.

“You can see this on his much-maligned but actually rather credible solo cover of the Supremes’ “Can’t Hurry Love” (admittedly it was a bad choice for a cover song, but you might as well swing for the fences).

It’s a good cover; sweet bubblegum pop is right up Collins’ alley. I’m not sure how it constitutes as a bad choice for a cover, it suits his voice and pop instincts rather nicely.

“Sure enough, whereas Gabriel’s vocals had been pinched and frenetic, Collins voice was strong and confident, well suited to a much more straight-forward kind of song.”

So is Gabriel’s voice unsuited for the more pop-inspired music he made in the 80s then? No. Both sing with confidence and strength, though I would characterize Gabriel with a rougher texture, whereas Collins has a smoother voice that works well for pop.

“Mad Man Moon”, off A Trick of the Tail, had featured this deathless verse:

Hey man,
I’m the sand man.
And boy have I news for you;
They’re gonna throw you in gaol
And you know they can’t fail
‘Cos sand is thicker than blood.
But a prison in sand
Is a haven in hell,
For a gaol can give you a goal
[And a] goal can find you a role.”

Can you blame him for sounding like he had a headcold?

Despite the dowdy appearance of the lyrics, Collins sounds perfectly healthy in the song, though he does have an accent because he is voicing a different character. The song picks up considerable during those lyrics as well, so it doesn’t feel bogged down.

Contrast that with this excerpt from “Duchess”:

But she dreamed of the times when she sang all her songs
And everybody cried for more,
When all she had to do was step into the light
For everyone to start to roar.
And all the people cried, you’re the one we’ve waited for.

Maybe Gabriel could have pulled off that bit of twaddle about “gaols” and “goals”, but Collins sounds much more comfortable singing about real people and real problems.”

With the heavy wordplay in the lyrics of “Mad Man Moon,” it certainly feels like a song that belongs to Gabriel. Again, we see more emphasis on the suitability of rock towards the proletarian and physical. The intangible ideas of prog is dismissed as “twaddle.”

“Abstract thought and conceptual art are always tricky to pull off with rock and roll: the music allows for an infinite degree of subtlety in expression, but a great deal of the intellectual heft comes from subtext and context. Directly inserting highbrow themes and concepts usually undermines everything. Trying to carry around the weight of thousands of years of British literary history was a poor substitute, in this instance, for simpler and more direct writing (which is not necessarily to say simple-minded, that would come later with the damnable “Sussudio”).

george-no

Let’s piece this paragraph out line by line, shall we?

Abstract thought and conceptual art are always tricky to pull off with rock and roll”

All good art requires effort, and this includes any kind of sub-genre of rock. Even the most simplistic aesthetic requires effort. High-concept art certainly requires good execution, and yes, it can fail miserably if done poorly. But prog rock adapted the rock aesthetic to fit their needs, broadening the definitions of what constituted as rock with traits such as atypical instrumentation and rhythm.

the music allows for an infinite degree of subtlety in expression, but a great deal of the intellectual heft comes from subtext and context.”

Here is where the author is stuck in a bind: he can’t say that rock can’t support complex ideas, that would indicate limits to the music itself. So instead he points to the surrounding packaging of a work to indicate the problem.

Directly inserting highbrow themes and concepts usually undermines everything.”

Sure, but again, execution is incredibly important. Having ideas with a high degree of complexity is not in itself dysfunctional.

Trying to carry around the weight of thousands of years of British literary history was a poor substitute, in this instance, for simpler and more direct writing”

I don’t think they are exactly interchangeable. I think of bands such as the Sex Pistols, The Smiths, and The Clash commenting on British history and identity. They certainly do not have minutely detailed songs like the more lyrical prog bands with simpler, in some cases brasher, aesthetic by comparison, but still can achieve some of the same effects.

(which is not necessarily to say simple-minded, that would come later with the damnable “Sussudio”).”

are-you-fucking-kidding-me-clean-l

Sussudio is golden. GOLDEN.

“Accordingly, Duke’s centerpiece is the Collins solo composition “Misunderstanding”, written in the wake of his divorce and held off of Collins’s first solo album, 1981’s Face Value. Not as strong, perhaps, as “Follow You, Follow Me”, it’s nonetheless another strong pop composition that hinges on a faux-classic Motown-esque hook. Despite it’s much less pop-friendly exterior, “Turn It on Again” also became a significant hit. There was still a bit of prog left, however, and this can be seen on the songs directly relating to the title character, “Duke” (“Duchess”, “Duke’s Travels”, and “Duke’s End”). Longtime scuttlebutt has held that these songs were initially intended to be heard as a single suite, comparable to the 23-minute-long “Supper’s Ready” off Foxtrot, but were separated in order to avoid any such direct comparison with the group’s previous incarnation. As it is, the tracks, whether thematically unified or not, still manage to achieve a remarkable clarity of intent that is lacking from much of the earlier post-Gabriel prog material: there aren’t any “flatulent quasisymphonies” anywhere to be found here, just fairly straight-ahead instrumental rock with a definite synth pop influence. It all holds up surprisingly well.” 

Faux-classic Motown-esque hook? Eh? I think that’s supposed to mean that the hook kind of sounds like Motown, but classic Motown, except it isn’t so slap the word ‘faux’ in front of it. With all that semantic jumble straightened out, I do not agree on the poorly worded description. I can understand the comparison, but Motown is definitely not the first thing I think of.

“Guide Vocals” and “Turn It On Again” are also part of the story of Duke, but that’s just a minor note. Duke is more unified, although many of the tracks have some bloat to them here and there. “Duke’s Travel’s” and “Duke’s End” is a two-song combination that last over 10 minutes, and that qualifies as “straight-ahead instrumental rock?”

The author’s next paragraph discusses the success of Abacab; with little to add, I omitted it for space. I will say that the songs “Abacab” and “Dodo/Lurker” also have lyrical complexity, illustrating the remnants of prog within the band. The lyrical structure of Abacab is that of A=verse, B=Chorus, C=Bridge, in the order ABACAB. The “Lurker” side of the song “Dodo/Lurker” meanwhile is a riddle.

It’s surprising that he prefers Duke over Abacab, which is trimmed down with even more potent pop hooks. What’s striking is that the author only givers the album a 4/10, without talking much about how the album works as a whole. Instead the author focuses on a few of the songs and how they fit into the work of the performers and the musical context of the time, which is some good work. However, there is no explanation to how the album works as a whole, leaving no hint of why it gets such a low score.

“If there is one thing 1976-1982 makes painfully clear, it is that Genesis’s songwriting had been the most painful Achilles heel of their long career. Without the strong personality of a Peter Gabriel to lead them, the group floundered for three albums before following its own better instincts into more fertile fields of straight-ahead pop songwriting.”

With Tail being a particularly strong album, I find it hard to say they were outright floundering, though there was certainly a lot of change and progression.

“Although there is a great deal to like when spread out across five albums, the inconsistency and downright embarrassing badness of much of the material makes it hard to support the group, at their best, as more than a guilty pleasure.”

There’s a consistent arc from the more esoteric style of prog lyricism towards more traditional pop structures.

“Phil Collins emerges, against all odds (heh), as one of the more interesting pop vocalists of the past 30 years, but the same songwriting instincts that successfully lead Genesis away from the most embarrassing excesses of the prog era would fail him as he embarked on a singularly successful but nevertheless rather insipid solo career. It’s hard to begrudge any lead singer who leaves his day job for solo success—after all, you make a lot more money when your name is the only one on the marquee—but the fact is that Collins’s best moments would come in tandem with Banks and Rutherford. Their commercial peak, 1986’s Invisible Touch, still holds up as a pretty good pop album, whereas just about everything Collins recorded on his own is either horribly dated (“Sussudio” what the fuck?) or simply overplayed beyond redemption. “Against All Odds” may have been a good song the first 10,000 times I heard it…”

…Is there an ending to this paragraph, or are you going to wax more about how you find his solo work mediocre? I would argue Collins had plenty of great moments both as the lead vocalist of Genesis *and* in his own solo career. The production in his solo work is good, certainly distinctive of the 80s, but not unbearably so. My personal favorite solo album of his is No Jacket Required, which, yes, has “Sussudio” as its opening track. Is it overplayed? Probably, but I did not grow up with the radio in the 80s. Whether its fair to dismiss someones work just because it become overwhelmingly popular is a topic for another day.

O’Neil then describes the technical aspects of the box set release. Suffice it to say that I would not mind owning this set. At all.

“So, yes, despite the general and deserved disdain with which prog rock is held, “

there's only so much more I can take please let it be the end

there’s only so much more I can take please let it be the end

“there is still much in Genesis’s long career that deserves reassessment. They were rarely brilliant and wildly inconsistent, but at their best they were still pretty good.”

Wow, all that negativity, only to end up with a “they’re not that bad” statement.

“1976-1982 is as complete and definitive a document of the band’s awkward transitional period as I can conceivably imagine. (Many better bands have never received anything nearly as lavish.) For those with a prior interest in the group, the collection will undoubtedly represent a godsend—for the rest of, we might just be happier with a “Best Of”. There are a few of those floating around.

A reasonable enough conclusion. If you aren’t into prog, a Best Of collection would probably suit your needs, though this collection was *made* for Genesis fans. I’m just glad it’s finally over.

Oh, and Duke. Duke’s a keeper.”

Oh wow, you actually liked something? I’m impressed.

1976-1982: 6/10

A Trick of the Tail: 5/10

Wind & Wuthering: 3/10

…And Then There Were Three…: 5/10

Duke: 7/10

Abacab: 4/10

Again, you like Duke, but not Abacab? That’s baffling.

Wait. It’s finally over? We’re done?

Colbert-High-Five

lokiyeahhh

taxi-drive-clap

——–

Through my numerous comments, I hope to illustrate that the main problem with the review is that is comes from a perspective that does not respect or appreciate the music form of prog, then trying to say that this close-minded point of view is okay for reviewing a collection of prog albums. It would be like me hating the post-rock genre, and reviewing a collection of Sigur Rós albums negatively based solely because I would assert that the musical form (or lack thereof) isn’t very good.  However, I would end by saying that their most recent album, with a stronger aggressive nature, is good because it suits what *I* want in music. In the author’s case, it’s the fidelity to the rock and roll tradition that he seeks.  It’s perfectly fine to have specific tastes and preferences in music, but forcing them unto other musical acts or genres as an attempted  method of objective quality does a disservice to the material at hand.

The review works best when it is actually evaluating the music by its own merits, especially when moving away from hating on prog itself. Years ago on my old blog piece on this article, I wrote some advice that could be gathered as a takeaway from looking at this review. Here it is posted below:

In the ever expansive pluralism we see in the music scene, open-mindedness becomes incredibly important to navigate all these different styles to allow for the art to speak. For good criticism, here are some of my tips:

  •  Respectful listening and engagement is important. Let the music work and see what happens.  Trust you instincts, but also….

  • Ask for other’s insights if you find yourself struggling with a piece of music. Friends can illuminate things you may have never seen before.

  • Look up more about the artist and her/his context. What styles and artists influence them? What do they reference? Knowledge is empowering, and there is a lot of research that can be done to better grasp someone’s work.

And while I’m at it, here were (and still are) some of my reasons for loving prog:

I like that it’s exploratory and uninhibited, a result of the 33 1/2 rpm record, that allowed for more play time. Starting with the Beatles on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, bands soon realized they can break free from the standard three-minute single. What followed was some truly creative stuff. I don’t see why music should be bound by expectations; let people make the art they want.
Many argue that prog rock is pretentious. This critic certainly finds the intellectual concepts of prog rock a hindrance at least. I struggle with this. How can you assume the exact intent of an artist? Does work heavy with literary references and abstract concepts automatically create an aura of pretentiousness?
But I do what seems best: I listen to the music. And I enjoy it. I practically relish in my fandom of something oblique, expansive, and lyrical. Maybe it’s not for everyone. That’s ok. But give it a chance.

And to quote Peter Gabriel, “If you think it’s pretentious, you’ve been taken for a ride.”

                           rock and roll
“cos it’s only knock and knowall, but I like it..”
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