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Art rock is a term describing a subgenre of music that tends to have " or influences" and emphasizes "novel sonic texture." Art rock is an "intrinsically album-based" form, which takes "advantage of the format's capacity for longer, more complex compositions and extended explorations." The Golden Age of Rock lectures define art rock as "a piece of music in the rock idiom that is appealing more intellectually or musically, that is, not formulated along lines for mass consumption." The lectures note that it is "…usually somewhat experimental", using "a long structure with several themes like music" or "a suite of individual songs." Art Rock "almost always features keyboards more than guitar." As well, art rock is "not so much for dancing as for listening and it often tells a story or has a philosophical theme to the lyrics."

Allmusic states that " and art rock are two almost interchangeable terms describing a mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility." Progressive rock eventually stuck as a label for a specific genre of rock music, while "art rock" was used to refer to a wider, more subjective and harder-to-categorize collection of bands.

Art rock may be considered "arty" through imitation of classical "art" music or literature, or simply through eclecticism. Examples of the former include Queen, The Moody Blues, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Kate Bush, The Beatles, and Love (Forever Changes) and examples of the latter include Peter Hammill, Roxy Music, Genesis and Yes.

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