I, like ADD, am going to be reviewing all of the new albums I buy during This Dreadful Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Seven. However, I'll be reviewing them when and how I damn well please, not in order of release date. So with no further ado, I shall commence:
Porcupine Tree- Fear of a Blank Planet (Atlantic)
Steven Wilson is, without a doubt, the most important figure in progressive rock today. His production of countless prog albums, including three vital Opeth releases, his prog metal meanderings in Blackfield, and his quintessential space rock act Porcupine Tree place him at the pinnacle of a scene that, admittedly, isn't thriving as much as it could be. Thus, his creative input to it must be welcomed and, when necessary, worshiped.
Porcupine Tree's ninth studio album since their 1991 debut On the Sunday of Life
is a conscious steering back toward their Floydian roots and away from the often modern rock-oriented approach to 2005's also spectacular Deadwing
. The songs still touch on this style, but also touch on every other style imaginable. This is pure art in the truest sense of the word.
Fear of a Blank Planet
draws its lyrical inspiration from Bret Easton Ellis' 2005 novel Lunar Park
, in which parents "cure" their troubled son with a steady diet of prescription drugs, television, and XBox, effectively cutting him off from the outside world. Wilson uses this idea and connects it to the world we live in today, with lyrics such as the title track's "How can I be sure I'm here?/The pills that I've been taking confuse me/I need to know that someone sees that there's nothing left/I simply am not here". Face it, people, we're a nation of narcotics and neurotics.
Musically, this album reflects the bleak nature of the lyrics with songs that manage to be somewhat depressing even when they're upbeat. "Fear of a Blank Planet" is a rocker with an addictive recurring acoustic lick. "My Ashes" and "Sentimental" are the albums true ballads, each heavy on keyboards and pianos and with emotional vocal performances by Wilson. The album's final two tracks, "Way Out of Here" and "Sleep Together" (the former of which featuring King Crimson's Robert Fripp on keys) each dabble in electronic music with an emphasis on vocal effects and pedal board wizardry. Each of these songs is great in its own right.
However, the whopper of the album is track number three, the nearly eighteen minute epic "Anesthetize". This song has everything that makes prog rock great in it, without being even the slightest bit long-winded or boring. The intro features drummer Gavin Harrison's Peart-worshiping fills (which are actually quite good) over clean electric chords from Wilson. This is your chance to put your seatbelt on, because from this point on, chaos ensues and takes no prisoners. Almost tech-death metal riffing, an amazing guest guitar solo by Alex Lifeson of Rush, soaring vocal harmonies, a quiet interlude, vocal rounds, a mini-ballad inserted into the song, and finally, more fucking vocal rounds. Whew. This song is literally a roller coaster of emotion (well, I suppose not literally
literally) and warrants no less than one listening per every two days (such is my protocol).
Between this album's concept, music, songwriting prowess, and unabashed flying of the prog rock flag, I have yet to hear a better collection of songs this year. Listen for yourself.