Thursday, June 11, 2009
Saga- Generation 13
Saga- Generation 13
My recent attempts to find positive things to say- even in the midst of unmitigated Prog catastrophes and artistic debacles the equivalent of France’s collapse at Sedan in 1870- are coming to an end. Yes, there were things that deserved a nod of approbation this past week- the Christian band can play, Rush are fine musicians, even the Kaplan Brothers are at least sincere in their monumental ineptitude. Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah- the meanest critic alive, who hates with the perfect beauty of a Sicilian blood feud, looked in Prog’s toilet and found that at least the shit had been flushed. But then yesterday, while writing about Rush, I investigated more fully what some have called their “little brother”- Canadian power-pop progsters Saga, who, many years after their obsolescence had been reached, decided to record their first flat-out “concept” album in their entire career. And let me tell you, it is an effort of such stunning horror and unrelieved incompetence that preparing to review this wretch made me think of none other than that miserable French general himself surrounded at Sedan- “Nous sommes dans un pot de chambre, et nous y serons emmerdés.”
I feel sorry for fans of Saga. I really, truly do. As said yesterday, while I do not concur and feel it is somewhat juvenile for otherwise competent adults to still listen to Rush, I “get it”, and what purpose they serve- for those of taste decidedly louche, 2112 or Hemispheres is a guilty pleasure, a secret indulgence in a tacky bedizenment which, nonetheless, rocks. And for all those “Analog Kids” out there suffering the tortures of adolescent reindeer games, I certainly understand why they respond which such felicity to Peart’s platitudinous musings- he’s speaking for every teenaged chronic-masturbator who has ever lived! Rush fans have suffered enough, I'm getting off their back.
But what the fuck with Saga, man? I never liked these guys- even in my musically impoverished youth, Saga belonged to a grouping of pseudo-pop-progsters like Aldo Nova or Triumph whose music I just found annoying. And there were other things as well- like Michael Sadler’s knee- pads for his acrobatic traipsing about on stage. Clearly visible in the attached screen shot from my Mac (see below, the only way I could present evidence for their existing on this blog- PLEASE CLICK IMAGE FOR GREATER RESOLUTION!), the knee pads are a very personal irritant to me. This guy is so frenzied in his frontman calisthenics that he has to have special body armor attached to his white jeans? Oh for fuck’s sakes, what a jackass. But personally those ridiculous knee-pads evoke still more powerful disgust- because of a childhood friend whom I will refer to here as “Tazz Razzberri”, which was, in fact, the name given to him by the promoter who hired him for work as a male stripper many years later (this is, sadly, all very true). Before he was a stripper working for a man who obviously despised him, “Tazz Razzberri” was a teenaged loser and lover of really bad music- and my best friend- and he had a special yen for Saga, and wanted to buy protective pads for his body so he could “just take off running into the woods with wild abandon”, as I seem to remember him saying. We grew up in a horrible little town, and life was hard on both of us- many nights were spent listening to Grace Under Pressure in Tazz’s bedroom, if that helps you understand the misery of our shared youths in a town where the only blacks who ever lived there were literally burned out of town when I was about eight. Still, the misery suffered at the hands of gearhead Klansmen and the like does not justify wanting to be more like Michael Sadler with his ridiculous knee-pads, and I no longer speak to Tazz Razzberri, off as he is somewhere with a very large wife and probably still listening to “Dreamline”-era Rush in his convertible Miata. What a dumbass.
But enough about Tazz, let’s return to the even more stultifying issue of Saga. These guys had a nice run for about eighteen months in the very early 80’s, producing jazz-tinged Arena Prog of tepid musicianship and overly-pristine production. Sounding smoother than whale shit and having less substance than a Paul Auster novel, Saga should have segued gracefully to retirement after their bright-dancing-star moment of an era of power pop so insignificant that Disco seems positively reverential by comparison. But they didn’t. Like an athlete who just doesn’t know when to walk away, Saga has Favre-d it up for the next twenty years, releasing a horde of albums that not even their mothers can tell apart, with one incredible and significant exception: 1995’s mesmerizingly obnoxious copro-fesitval of pure shittiness, Generation 13. This, dear friends, is a very, very special album, and you must be aware the language is about to get very, very rough in describing it.
For starters: this fucking album flat-out fucking sucks. I mean it really fucking sucks. It sucks like a trailerpark granny desperate for one more bag of meth. It sucks like a Steven Soderbergh film festival emceed by Brett Ratner. Of all the miserable, execrable, intolerable and unlistenable fucking experiences I’ve had in my goddamn life- and I’ve had plenty of late, that is for good and goddamned sure- Generation 13 is such an insufferable exercise in tuneless futility that if this album were an ethnic minority, I would urge a campaign of genocide against it. We’re talking Hutu-on-Tutsis level of annihilation here- unmitigated tastelessness demands unmitigated slaughter. For all of the pretentious and loathsome attempts at creation that Prog has ever inspired, this boorish monstrosity is devoid of virtue and replete with excreta to such an extent that I’d rather listen to Queensryche songs sung in an eerie falsetto by David Surkamp in a sauna with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, all of whom forgot to bring their towels and are going “commando” for the day. Wimpy, whiny, saccharine-tinged like a crate of Diet Dr. Pepper and so poorly executed that I’m convinced the record company released it out of pure sadism, Generation 13 is to concept albums what Mark Kostabi was to painting: insincere, derivative, fraudulent, piss-poor and likely to evoke violence in any poor sap likely to hear it who doesn’t think “On the Loose” was the greatest rock song ever written. This is an absolutely Stygian experience of hellish invention, of Satanic maladroitness bordering on criminal, mindless as a Mormon and perverse as a Templar. In short, I really don’t want to think about an album possibly being worse than this, because if it exists, surely it is now being used in cruel laboratory experiments designed to make chimpanzees into perfect and remorseless killers, soon to be unleashed upon man by some diabolical corporation after having completely gone insane listening to the worst piece of shit ever conjured by a faulty human mind. Someone needs to pay for this fucking shit.
For one thing, how can you make a concept album where the concept is almost impossible to discern? I spent almost an hour yesterday searching the Internets for some kind of explanation that made ANY sense as to what possible story line these Canadian fucks had in mind with this garbage. An hour of my life, gone forever! And STILL I’m not entirely sure what all of this crap is supposed to mean. To be as succinct as possible, apparently there was a “cultural studies” book released in the early 90’s about “Generation X” (yep, that’s me and mine!) who were the 13th generation born in the United States. Oooh, spooky! ‘Cos, like, “13” is cursed and stuff, right? Star-crossed from our inception, no wonder we all voted for Obama- we’re fucking EVIL, after all, we’re number 13!!! Oh what unmitigated bullshit- for starters, what the hell is a Canadian band doing worrying about what generation is doing what in America? Excuse me, you judgmental bastards, but you killed your share of Indians too, and I’m getting sick of having this “healthcare” shit lorded over me by a nation that has given the world Loverboy, Snow, Nickelback (!) and...SAGA!!!!!!
And what a gift! Generation 13 purports to tell the story of “Jeremy” (oh fuck you and your Pearl Jam reference- how LAME!) who is, I guess, really upset about growing up to be like his father. Yep, more tortured-adolescence fairy tales from pompous Canucks, and this one the most inscrutable of all- because Jeremy apparently has a split personality, and the other side is “Sam”, who speaks like Tony from The Shining and directs Jeremy to self-destructive behavior. This goes on through twenty-five tracks, some of them spoken and the lyrics of the sung ones almost impossible to discern through all the noise and histrionic emotion of Michael Sadler’s voice. And the only thing I can tell you for sure is that Jeremy fucking vows, goddammit, that “I’ll never be like you”. And people wonder why infanticide is so popular in cultures that have any sense.
The music is pure symphonic-rock, that dreadful synthesizer sound of the 90’s that bands who’d been listening to too much Enya on the tour bus affected with such galling regularity. There seems to be a criticism of media culture somewhere in the bowels of this beast, but frankly I don’t care to discuss it because the writing is on the level of a high schooler who dismisses everything he doesn’t like in terms of “this is fucking bullshit, dude”. Of course there is an anthem that erupts in the middle of the story, and it is rife with horrible rhymes and soaring vocals and power chords of such earnestness that The Scorpions would blush. About the only thing that can be said positive about this “work” is that, like rape, it will inevitably end. Though at the end of the assault, I can honestly say I wish it was just my ass that was hurting. I Spit on Your Grave, Saga.
I don’t know. I just don’t know anymore. This all started for me several months ago when, one sleepless and unemployed night, I stumbled onto Pavlov’s Dog on The Pirate Bay, having been assured by the torrent creator that “if you like King Crimson, you’ll love this!” I was so blown away by the Dog- a band so insanely bad that I’m shocked that they’re not Canadian- that I had to tell the whole world, and in the process decided to deal with a long-cherished hatred of Yes in the process. Thus, the original Facebook Progressive Rock Hall of Infamy group was born. With the incredible and invaluable help of my partner, DJ Micah, a little republic was founded on principles of slaying those groups who have had such a reaming coming for many, many years. Over the months, there have been three radio shows, two stalkers, a death threat, and the identification of the International Cabal (PRIC) who conspire to see to it that Prog remains the most hated form of music ever invented by man. It’s been fun, and appalling in the way only a philosophical Masochist can appreciate. I feel the joy of the flagellant, and hope you've enjoyed your whipping, too.
But Saga has taken me to a dark place, friends. That murder, mayhem, torture and rapine occur in the world is a given- man is a cruel animal, after all. But you can usually chalk all of that up to a “lone nut”, or a good man who ignored the warning signs so as not to cause trouble. Saga, however, are a group of men who have committed a crime so foul (Generation 13) that it demands swift and severe punishment, yet...still they walk this Earth. People own this album, and like it, as one can see by a visit to the Saga discussion forum maintained by some German guy as a virtual shrine (the main Pavlov’s Dog fan site is German, too- curious, isn’t it?). Instead of being about as loved as small-pox and as avoided as a hypodermic needle sitting on a toilet seat, Saga has a wildly loyal fan base who bemoan only that Michael Sadler has left the band and moved on with his “art”. And I just don’t know how I can continue in a jocular vein dealing with these wretched records, trying to pretend that they’re just a small part of an overall mosaic called Prog that is wonderfully creative and uniquely fulfilling. I feel like Saga is just as capable of sucking beauty out of the world as Peter Hammill is of putting beauty into it; and there is no question whose output has been more vast of recent years. Malignant and fecund, Bad Prog is a galloping tumor of mediocrity birthed from inferior minds with superior ambitions; just because they fail and suck doesn’t mean bands like Saga aren’t trying. And I can’t stop them. I have finally decided...I just can’t stop them.
If this is the last review at the PRHOI, thank you for visiting. I’ve enjoyed the correspondence, the approbation, the hate mail perhaps even more. But this may be the limit, and could be, alas, a Saga come to end. Bad Prog doesn’t sleep; and this Curator is very, very tired today. - TR