Saturday, January 13, 2007
Review: Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun
(l to r, Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun)
Unlike my other two negative reviews, this might garner dislike from people I don't think are subhuman in intelligence level. Deal with it.
To truly describe the feeling of disappointment and betrayal I felt when hearing this album for the first time, I will require to give my (obviously unbiased) description of Steven Wilson's state of mind up until this album. Wilson started out by making a "fake" 70's prog outfit (complete with fake bio) and making music for it on several demos. After releasing an album's worth of this material (On the Sunday of Life), he decided to cut the bullshit and make the music in earnest. His first "real" album, Up the Downstair, was a great, fairly soft proggy album, filled with interludes, little jams, and other stuff to make for a very unique and interesting experience. Moving on, The Sky Moves Sideways, his next release, was a 49-minute, 5-track, 4-song monster of an album (the title track is split into 2 17-minute sections, with an intro track into the second half). Here, he moved a bit away from his original Pink Floydish material to tread often upon very modern sounds. Then, my personal favorite, Signify is published, and shit really starts being torn up in earnest, as the album had the darkest Porcupine Tree sound to that point, and was cohesive as all hell.
Sometime between 1996 and 1999, Steven Wilson snapped. Suddenly, Porcupine Tree's direction veered way the hell off. Sure, the music still had some vaguely proggy tendencies, and some tracks would remain fairly long (as average songs go). However, two important, important things changed. For one, that previous darker, more sinister underlying qualities and slight trippiness? All but gone, musically. For another, the previous sense of mission, the idea that each track was an important part of a larger picture? Abandoned, in favor of interchangeable, faceless songs. Thus did Stupid Dream come into being. And if that wasn't enough, the next album, Lightbulb Sun, subtracted any residual testosterone from the equation, making the music a fucking mess.
Each album has its high(er) points; ironically, one of the only songs on Lightbulb Sun that I could get into was "Four Chords That Made a Million", a song about selling out. I say ironically because that's what Porcupine Tree did in those two albums. I say this with no stupid scene-like preconceptions about the music industry or what music should do (though I do belive that as well); I mean this in the most basic way possible. They changed their core sound to something more marketable, thus, selling out. The song name is stupid, too -- as I have tried to show by means of Dark Lunacy, and others, a band can make a musical buffet fit for a king from a shit taco of basic ingredients. It's all in the preparation, and I think this -- to drop the food-esque metaphor, the songwriting -- is where the albums truly turn from disappointment to betrayal.
Most of the songs on the albums are either unlistenably, sickeningly happy (like the title track of Lightbulb Sun) or angsty and complaining (like every other track on Stupid Dream ). Add guitar effects here, different instruments there, slap it together with a few particularly longer songs and not-always-standard song structures so prog nerds can defend it, paste in some shitty story about being dumped that would make an emo kid snicker in schadenfreude, and go. I don't seperate the albums in this case because they are so similar in their shoddy construction. There's no point to going into the specifics on these; the albums were churned out in the same shit factory of awful music, so why bother?
For Stupid Dream:
5 stupid, unfulfilled dreams of Signify-lovers out of 10.
10 things I think Wilson stared a little too much into before recording these albums...
out of 30. Sucker.