Thursday, July 30, 2009

ELP: The Endless Enigma (1972)

Got in an Emerson, Lake & Palmer mood for the first time in a couple of decades, really. Was really struck this time by "The Endless Enigma" from their 1972 album Trilogy. Here's pt. 1, the middle fugue, and pt. 2.

Yeah, it's prog at its pompousest. I didn't used to mind that, when I was a teenage progger. Now I ought to know better, I suppose, but I don't. Because what struck me this time around was how very, very rock'n'roll this kind of pomp is.

I ask you: when you watch Spinal Tap, do you come away from it wanting to listen to some wise and well-behaved, impeccably literate and ironical alternative rock? Of course not: you come away wanting to listen to some Priest. The kind of pomp that movie sends up is just another species of rock excess, and what do we listen to rock for, if not excess?

ELP knew excess. "The Endless Enigma" is full of it. Excessive musicianship (if you like hearing good players play good,* you probably dig all that keyboard/bass/drums interplay: ELP were a jazz trio on acid). Excessive attitude ("I'm tired of hypocrite freaks / With tongues in their cheeks / Turning their eyes as they speak / They make me sick and tired" - does it get any punker than that?). Excessive atmosphere (that X-Files-ish opening, that "Great Gates Of Kiev" closing).

As they used to say: too much, man.

(*and if you don't like hearing good players play good, why are you here?)

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