Is There a Double Standard?

Jerry Lucky Commentary December 2009

Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2009 All Rights Reserved


The other day I was wondering about something…is there a double standard that we apply towards progressive rock that we

don’t apply to other genres of rock music? What I mean is this, there are some with in the community, fans and critics alike who

seem all too quick to pass judgement on a style or sub-genre as being somehow inferior, second-rate or over-populated based on

sound similarities, all the while ignoring that virtually all rock genre’s are populated by some form of familiarity. By that I mean that each

generation tends to pilfer from the past, incorporating elements it likes into its own new musical style. To my mind there is nothing wrong

with this. All good thought tends to be built on the shoulders of those who came before.


The issue I have with holding to this ‘double standard’ [if one does indeed exist] is this; time and time again I will read someone say something like, bands ‘A, B and C’ are not REAL progressive bands, just bands that we may or may not want to allow into the club. It may be a band like Zon or in some cases it might even be a band like Kansas. Depending on one’s progressive predilection any number of bands could be considered ‘fringe-like.’ Typically this marginalization fails to take into account time and context. The double standard here is that it seems we rarely if ever apply this same level of scrutiny to those other musical forms.


Each of us comes to the party with a set of likes and dislikes. All the things that go to make us who we are also in many ways give us the tools to measure our preferences if not actually define them. If we’re not careful our preferences can lead us to marginalize the things we dislike. You’ve all heard kids on the playground describe something as ‘terrible’ right…it may have been some food, a movie, a book or a song. But the truth of the matter is, whatever it was may not have been terrible at all. It just didn’t fit into your set of preferences. Not fitting in doesn’t make it bad or terrible it just means you didn’t care for it. From a young age I used to dislike hearing or reading critics describe a band as ‘bad.’ It was infuriating to me, especially if I liked them. I didn’t think they were bad. I thought they were good. You think they’re bad. Rules of logic would say that something can’t be good AND bad in the same sense at the same time. Tell me you didn’t like the band, I can accept that, but don’t tell me they were bad, because it’s simply not true.


In my mind too many times we confuse preferences with performance. Like when we hear someone say this record sounds the same as their last one. Really? They’ve done nothing new. Really? So all those notes, arrangements, lyrics, and instrumentation…it’s all the same, they just played their last record over again. Is that what you’re saying?  


I realize this may be a bad analogy (because all analogies break down after a while) but if we look at the musical output of, say, Mozart there are many who could easily identify his music in two or three notes. He wrote 41 numbered symphonies and even I can be reasonably assured of identifying his signature musical motifs. And yet, when symphonic prog bands perpetuate a particular style, they are often times criticised or singled out as reproducing the same thing or not doing something different. I say again 41 symphonies and they all bear Mozart’s signature style. What’s the big deal with a band perpetuating a style? What is meant by those who criticize an artist for repeating themselves? What does that mean? I’m quite sure the artists didn’t sit down and say, “How can I write the same thing only differently.” So what does that really mean, “They didn’t do anything new?” The fact there is a new disc clearly indicates there is something new.


I’m beginning to wonder if in our oh-so-post-modern world we have created goals or levels of measurement that no longer apply to the makers of music but are more a reflection of the individual listener’s appetite. Because we have such a vast supply of music available to us, maybe some people have created a special kind of screening process to ensure their preferences are satisfied. This may in fact be creating an environment that is totally unfair for the artist. I’m not sure, but it’s starting to look that way to me. At least that’s what I think. 


Jerry Lucky