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Classic prog rocker Peter Gabriel performs with Genesis. Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez Lopez of the Mars Volta

The elaborate soundscapes of prog rock are on the rebound

Page 3 of 3 -- ''I saw where musicianship was going at that point in time. It was the drug era coming into rock 'n' roll, so everyone was getting into the overindulgence of playing," the late Johnny Ramone says in the film. ''Those long solos -- you felt, 'No way can I ever be able to play like this.' Even if you have the talent you'd have to sit there for 15 years practicing."

Still, it's that same epic musicianship, some believe, that has revived prog-rock.

''I've been predicting this for a while, and I think it's a backlash against all the manufactured, pop-tart type of music that's not good for anything but dancing to," says Gordon, who also runs, an online prog-rock radio network, as well as the prog-rock music service Mindawn.

''It's not interesting to listen to, and there's nothing to the lyrics," he said of slick pop confections. ''Christina Aguilera puts an album out and it's called 'groundbreaking' because of how nasty she is. In what way is that groundbreaking?"

Prog-rock festival organizer Roldan, who also runs, said new prog-rock fans may have become familiar with the music by delving into their parents' collections -- today's 40-year-olds were the ones tripping out on Pink Floyd's ''Dark Side of the Moon" and Emerson, Lake & Palmer's ''Brain Salad Surgery." The Internet, he added, has also revived interest in the once-overlooked genre.

''There are more than 50 Internet stations right now devoted to progressive rock," he says. ''It has propelled prog rock back to a level where it's accessible to the masses."

With prog rock splintered into numerous subgenres -- from Kraut rock to psychedelic/space rock -- the genre seems more vital and potent than ever. Not that prog rock ever truly went way; bands like Kansas and Pink Floyd have never stopped touring and filling venues worldwide. Yet it has been reinvigorated by dedicated fans and musicians, again demanding more artistic substance than most radio-ready rock filler can supply.

''Progressive rock used to be described as music for intelligent people. It still is, but it also has great hooks and melodies," Roldan says. ''These are musicians playing music the way they want to play it, and kids are digging it." 

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What makes it prog?

Two new discs and two old albums share on trait: grandiosity.
The Mars Volta
The Mars Volta, "Frances the Mute" (2005): Three of its five "songs" are actually 12-minute-plus suites based on a diary found be a band member who died two years ago.
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
... And You Will Know Us by the trail of Dead, "World Apart" (2005): The vaguely disturbing cover art is either a medieval apocalypse or the "running of the brides" gown sale at Filene's Basement.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "Tarkus" (1971): Side one is a 20-minute suit made up of seven parts: foud instrumental sections and three songs. Plus the album is named after a hybrid of an armadilla and a tank.
Genesis, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (1974): A totally bizarre double-album rock drama in which singer Peter Gabriel plays street hustler Rael, an "imperial aerosol god" who moves through the subways with his spray gun.
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