25 Jul 2021

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Kev Rowland - Book Review: The Progressive Underground vol 1 - 3

27 Jan 2021 // A review by Peter-James Dries

It is an odd circumstance, to be in the position of reviewing reviews. Reviews are one person’s personal, subjective opinion. Alas, critiquing other’s opinions popularised philosophy, without which I would never have passed university. So, into Kev Rowland’s new book I shall delve.

Let us begin with clarity for the mis- and un- informed.

No, this review is not about that Kev Rowland, frontman for Dexys Midnight Runners. However, if that was your first thought, then you’re probably of the right age to appreciate what this Kev is dealing.

Genres away from the wrong Rowland’s Come on, Eileen, progressive rock is an experimental and arty niche market. More popular in decades forgotten, mainstream media pretends 'prog' doesn't exist in our modern times. Perhaps because you could fit three songs by cheaper bands into the radio slot it takes to fit one prog song's intro.

It’s the domain of bands like Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree and Tool, to name the few that the lay-person may know. They’re bands that approach genre with such promiscuity they can no longer be defined by a single one. The bands that fall so far outside of normal genre nomenclature that they’re sound is usually referred to by their names; “Tool-ish”, “Pink Floydian”. A bastion for pseudo-intellectual stoners, pretentious neck-beards, and your dad; people for whom the normal verse-chorus-verse song structure is too passé.

This Kev Rowland is almost certifiably the biggest fan of the genre, were there such a certificate. Furthermore, they are the author of more progressive rock reviews than there are progressive rock bands. Well, bands that you’ve heard of at least.

Laying his fan card on the table, Rowland has brought all of these reviews together to create a veritable Encyclopaedia Progressivica in three volumes. An alphabetical subjective history of progressive rock, outside of chronological order naturally, because Prog makes its own rules, man. The Progressive Underground: the ultimate pan-progressive fanzine.

Before Wikipedia, even before personalised Geocities sites dedicated to our favourite bands, fanzines were a public service. Nowhere else could you find the favourite pasta dish of your favourite singer. While we could barely muster the effort to vivid and twink our favourite bands name into our pencil cases, these industrious individuals, armed with stationery, a fist-full of stamps, and a love for the music, were our sole source of information.

And as it does, the world has come full-circle.

With the advent of cheap home recording solutions the internet has almost reached its capacity hosting all of the new ‘bands’ that have emerged, all vying for your attention, all sharing their favourite food. Finding a raindrop in a desert is as difficult as finding one in a river. Lucky then, for people like Kev Rowland.

While not a complete compendium of every album ever released by any prog band, The Progressive Underground is the go-to resource for dabblers in scene, looking to sort the hits from the shit. Across the uncounted pages you will find all the information you will need to sojourn the underground network of releases the mainstream doesn’t care enough about to shun. With the prog-expert Kev at the wheel, you’ll have no issue sieving out the unlistenable from the enlightened.

You can find copies of the three volumes of The Progressive Underground all over the internet, but here it is on Amazon.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

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