what Frank is listening to #53- SUPERTRAMP – Crime of the Century – (A&M) – 1975
Back in the late 1970s the only thing I knew about Supertramp was that they were prog rock, they put out "Breakfast in America" (1979) which all the kids in school liked, they were English, and, I didn't think they were that great. In 2009 my knowledge prior to this review was still largely the same, though admitedly, I only knew their singles. As I write this, and listen to the music, I can say it certainly has become more palatable to me but my opinion hasn't greatly changed.
The trouble with a prog rock band is the insufferable pomposity that goes along with the music. Thank goodness that Supertramp (much like 10CC) had a couple of good songwriters who could steer the prog ambitions into "prog-pop" rather than "prog-rock".
Back in my review of Kansas ( what Frank is listening to #20 – for those who a cataloguing these small missives of opinion and knowledge … harr) I wrote this in regard to prog rock, and I repeat it here as my opinion hasn't changed (in the weeks) since that review:
Prog rock (art rock) was something typically English ..and drawn inadvertently from The Beatles (Sgt Peppers) to elevate rock music to musical credibility – hence the symphonic nature of the music, or even use of symphonies or large groups of musicians as well as pretentious bombastic lyrics. It tapped into the slightly elitist nature of English popular culture … rock is not good enough as it is, we need to sit it next to Beethoven, Brahms, Bach. It already does you knobends …. "Roll Over Beethoven". And yes I acknowledge the Germans and Dutch also put out more than their fair share of prog rock bands …. maybe you had to be a former colonial imperialist power to put out prog rock? But don't get me wrong – 10CC, Jethro Tull, King Crimson have all had good songs and even albums… but generally its lean pickings in the prog rock world (to my ears) … In any event it was music for the pretentious and self important and usually appreciated by, I assume, girlfriendless nerds …. the musical equivalent of people who like "2001: A Space Odyssey"… From the Beatles' small pretensions grew other bands with grander ambitions if limited ability – Moody Blues, post Syd Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Yes, Rush (Canadian) , Marillion, Camel"
Though, there are no songs under three minutes and most are four to seven minutes long there is enough short pop to make the album less excruciating. There is an overall feel that Supertramp are a pop version of Pink Floyd and the songs are largely more humable than Pink Floyd (I of course refer to post-Syd Pink Floyd – which I think is largely wretched). It's also arguable that The Beatles would have become this if they had not imploded, had lasted the 70s, and had gone prog (which was on the cards).
Ultimately though, there isn't enough good songs on the album , it is slightly tedious, and I'm sure it would grow more tedious if I listened to it again.
"Breakfast in America" is in the pile behind me somewhere (as are some other Supertramp LPs) so I should listen to that before being too critical of the band. I will say, though, that there is certainly a lot worse prog music out there.
School – how's this for a Pink Floyd rip off?
Bloody Well Right – catchy Englishisms, and they take the piss – #35 US.
Dreamer – the hit – #13UK … and the catchiest song.
Rudy – a dullish song but with some good lyrics.
The album was a hit … #38 in the US and #4UK.
Still, punk was "invented" to do away with "prog" as much as it was invented to do away with disco. So ultimately prog proved useful as a catalyst for that.
I'll tape a couple of tracks and sell.
if you didn't know prog was pompous before check out the live clips below:
(originally posted: 27/06/2009)