What cars are prog rock?

1y ago

7.3K

Let's get this part out of the way right off the bat - I am 34 years old and love prog rock. Yes, I listen to King Crimson, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and a bunch of other bands too old/uncool/pretentious to name here. Most of this stuff had already descended into self-parody long before I was born (Rick Wakeman doing a show *on ice* probably should've been a sign to take it down a notch ... or 12). But I love the sheer ambition of it, even when it misses the mark. And, yes, I'm going to bring it back to cars, I promise.

On a recent episode of our podcast (helpfully also called TeamClearCoat - we're on iTunes and everywhere else), Dave and I were driving back to Colorado from a race in Wisconsin. At about 10 hours in, we started doing what all opinionated friends do, and tried forcing our music on each other. I selected an album that, while not exactly "prog rock," can trace its ambition DNA back to those glorious organ-solo days. I put on Titus Andronicus' 2010 album "The Monitor." It's all coming back to cars. Soon-ish. I promise.

If you don't know this album, you're wrong.

It's one of my favorite albums of the last 10 years, partly because of the balls it must have taken to pitch it to their label. "Yes, we'd like to make a double-length punk rock album that is a concept about the Civil War while also being about growing up in modern-day New Jersey. Oh, and we're going to need 25 extra musicians and there will be some vignettes where rock stars read Civil War era speeches." It's epic before you even drop the needle on the first side.

And here's where we bring it around to cars. Dave - being a goddamn genius - asked if I could think of cars that were the same way. Cars that you HAVE to admire for the sheer audacity of them being made in the first place. Cars that have the magic combination of most elements falling short of the mark, but one or two that are transcendent, and the result is a whole package that captures the imagination. Because that's the experience of a prog rock album - 95 minutes of music that *might* be from a renaissance fair followed by a 2 minute passage that makes the whole thing worth it.

The Fisker Karma - it's clearly a clusterfuck, but it IS interesting.

The first car that comes to mind for me is the Fisker Karma. Crazy ambitious by any standard, it missed the mark in almost every way. Sometimes, spectacularly so:

Pyrotechnics: I told you this thing was prog as hell!

Even though it was a sales disaster, and it caught fire all the time, and the Tesla Model S ended up being the luxury eco-car du jour, you still get kind of excited when you see one. A lot of that are the looks: it's gorgeous (when not on fire). And there's the crazy materials that make up the interior. And the weird side pipes. And on and on.

It's important to note here that I'm not arguing it's a success, or even a "good car." But it's maybe the most prog rock car of the last few years. To use a too-specific and obscure analogy, the looks are like Carl Palmer's awesome drum fills on the title track for "Tarkus," while most of the rest of the execution is like "Jeremy Bender" from that same album. Seriously, what was it with English bands insistence on including weird honky-tonk songs in their albums in the 70s? Anyway, don't listen to that song.

So what other cars do you admire because they shot for the moon and ended up crashing into Mt Everest (still impressive! Have YOU ever been to Mt Everest?)? We'll be talking about this on an upcoming episode of the podcast, so let us know what you think of.

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Comments (11)
  • Marcel Leyat's Hélica definitely deserves a mention here. Powered by a Scorpion engine putting out 8hp and the car only weighing-in at 250kg thanks to its plywood construction one example reached 106mph in 1927.

    9 months ago
    2 Bumps
  • Any classic MG. You look at it and it's full of promise. It's awfully pretty, evocative and quintessentially British. However, when you try to use it it takes five times longer than you expected, your expectations change many times in the process, it seems to mutate along the way and, by the time you get to the end, you've forgotten why you started.

    They're all basically Firth of Fifth¹ with windscreen wipers.

    ¹ Pick your variant. Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford or Daryl Stuermer, it doesn't really matter. It'll be one of the others by the time you get back anyway.

    9 months ago
    1 Bump

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