The current consensus is that rock is well into its third generation. But the bands which have pulled the music furthest from its roots remain critically dismissed. There are reasons for such disdain. Lumped together as art-rock, such bands as the three above seem to threaten the artistic stature of anything less complex, or more simple. But it is even harder for hard-rock-oriented listeners to find rock at all in the styles of bands as diverse as Focus, Gentle Giant, Be-Bop Deluxe, Boston and Kansas, the other young bands which share sounds... Read More
or approaches similar to Genesis, Queen and Starcastle. Yet such music can't be denied analysis forever. Liking it asks too much, perhaps, but listening is probably obligatory, at least for critics.
These groups are not art-rock in the sense that they confine their borrowings to orchestral classical music, as such progenitors as the Nice and Emerson, Lake and Palmer often did. Nor were they spawned in artistic communities such as the ones that nurtured Roxy Music or Patti Smith. For performers such as Genesis, Queen and Starcastle, rock is still the dominant influence. These third-generation bands have a mixed litter of second-generation antecedents: the Mothers of Invention, Cat Stevens, Procol Harum, Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Yes, Phil Spector, King Crimson, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Yardbirds.
In the most noteworthy art-rock essay (contained in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll), John Rockwell calls such bands "eclectic experimentalists." But until one attempts to assemble such a list of sources, it's hard to see how awesomely accurate his term is. The eccentric combination of influences is what distinguishes most of these groups. The vocal structures of the Beach Boys, for instance, have influenced Queen as deeply as they have Eric Carmen. Yet Queen's instrumentation owes more to Led Zeppelin, Yes and the Beatles. Starcastle are an inflection-accurate replication of Yes. Genesis are nearly free from overt emulation, but their debts to Jethro Tull and King Crimson hardly need ferreting out.
Still, the sensibility of these bands is discernibly different from that of the equally imitative third-generation heavy-rock acts like Aerosmith, Kiss and even Thin Lizzy, The heavy bands are, in some ways at least, attempting to recapture and redefine the spirit of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. The eclectic experimentalists are more baroquetheir goal is a rigorous, complicated structure rather than emotive resonance.
This sometimes takes the form of grand silliness. A Day at the Races is probably meant to be the sequel to Queen's 1976 smash, A Night at the Opera, but nothing much has changed. Queen is the least experimental of such groups, probably because their commercial aspirations are the most brazen. They have managed to borrow all that's frothiest from their influences, from the fake-orgasmic vocal