The narrative about American prog in the ’70s that I grew up on is that American musicians heard British prog and got really excited about it but, without the classical education, they really didn’t know how to do it, save to include some jazz. And then some of them figured out that if they just mixed it with American arena rock they had something. And so American prog is much poppier than British/European prog. And that has mostly seemed true as I’ve encountered the odd American prog rock band.
But Crack the Sky challenge my preconceptions and they do so for a couple of reasons. Yes, this is catchier, poppier music than your average British prog rock band. Yes, the telltale harmony vocals you find in so many ’70s American prog rock bands are here. But you also get knotty time signatures that are far knottier than most of the American prog I’m familiar with. (American prog bands will solo till they’re blue in the face, but don’t ask them to fuck with conventional rock time signatures.) And you get a bit of funk, certainly more than I was expecting. And there’s an edge to some of the riffs that gives them a harder sound (when they want to be hard) than I was expecting.
The songs are mostly not ambitious, at least in the sense of British prog rock. (The longest track is less than 8 minutes, which is like the average track length for some British prog bands.) But some of these songs contain many musical ideas despite their brevity – and their clear commercial aims.
It’s clear to me there’s talent here. And yes, there are commercial ambitions. But they’re not as naked as some, and they’re mixed in with a real desire to make interesting music, inspired by the prog bands of the previous 7 years or so. The record makes me wonder if there isn’t more decent American prog out there.