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Porcupine Tree - Fear Of A Blank Planet CD (album) cover

FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.22 | 1789 ratings

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beebs
4 stars Since becoming acquainted with Pocupine Tree a couple of years ago (yes.....late again on yet *another* outstanding band......I really need to get around a bit more), I've heard things from Steven Wilson the likes of which - in terms of sonic uniqueness and pure musicianship - transcend the genre of what is loosely called "progressive rock" into an artform that no longer mimics its forefathers of the 70's. The progression of the recordings by the band has taken listeners through various romps through spacey drug trips full of instrumental bliss, pop-ish tunes with hooks like dull scissors under a trenchcoat, and finally to a seeming merge of melody and metal.

I prefer to look at "Fear of a Blank Planet" in terms of the body of work from Porcupine Tree as a whole, since each release has shown a clear mutation/growth of the band to what it became at last with Deadwing. Everyone has their favorite CD's by Porcupine Tree, and I can say I have mine: "Deadwing", "Signify", "In Absentia", "The Sky Moves Sideways", "Lightbulb Sun", "Stupid Dream" and "Up the Down Stair" all hold special places with me. With "Fear...", it seems Mr. Wilson has come full-circle in his musical development and appears to be swirling in mixes of what has worked best over the last 10+ years.

This does not necessarily create the most desirable end-result though. While this CD does not lack in superb musicianship, there *are* times that the musicianship is there for its own sake and not the songs. Sometimes, but (fortunately) rarely. Something in the end result that is this CD is missing in large chunks that was present to varying degrees in *all* PT releases: a certain "charm" or "quaintness". There are many moments, though, when this "charm" is re-captured; but there are too many times the "charm" ("beauty"?) is lost (seemingly), and I hope that effect is intentional. I have every reason and faith to believe that it IS intentional as a by-product of this: what I view now as a "transitional" release.

I feel the start of the CD starts as kind of a rant, and doesn't let up. The title track can both stimulate and annoy. On too many listens it has done the latter, but I still shoulder on through it and enjoy what is there to enjoy. Lyrically, the song is abyssmal. When WILL Steven get a cheerful thought back into his head again? WHY is the world seemingly just "so dark"? Does it get any better, or is it stuck this way? There is a pervading sense of hopelessness and gloom without even a moment of sardonicism or even a wordplay to make you go "Ohhhh, I get it! That's a clever metaphor."

Nonetheless, this is not intended to be a negative review. Many will say I am looking too microscopically that which needs to be taken a step back from (and I have tried that, too) to be more fully appreciated. Okay. I appreciate what they did in songs like "My Ashes", "Anesthetize" (which I will not hesitate to say is one of the CD's true gems), "Sentimental" and "Way Out of Here". There is enough to grab the listener to truly appreciate that certain other things, umm, "lacking" are made up for:

The "tribal" sounding drums early on in "Anesthetize" are mesmerizing. Wilson's vocals on "Way Out of Here" are beautiful and plaintive (even if the lyrical content is NOT). Some passages are kept simple, and this STILL WORKS....and is one of PT's endearing charms. This is what made Deadwing an ultimate winner, In Absentia more acccessible than previous releases, and Signify kept the listener more on their cerebral toes.

Compared to most bands, this album is a gem, if not completely unattainable in stature. However, Porcupine Tree have scaled the Summit in the past, and somehow on this one have fallen short. But still - for most other bands - this level would be a milestone.

Glints of pure brilliance, yes, but still there are moments when the sonic effect or the lyrical delivery are not quite up to PT standards from where I see them, but that's still ok. After all, the Beatles made only one Abbey Road, White Album, and Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. This band already has those (I dare to blaspheme to some), but this one doesn't quite scale the Summit. They'll get it next time, I'm sure. It will still be in constant rotation, but not wth the same grip as the aformentioned others.

Oeverall, still worthy of 4 stars, but it could have been better. Get a little happy, Steve! Life IS worth living......and not a dirge for all of us.

beebs | 4/5 |

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