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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 | 1816 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "How can I be sure I'm here."

FOABP is a compelling and ambitious piece of modern rock music that aims high and really achieves it goals. The subject matter is dark and relevant and also cyclical, isn't it? We get the stories of disaffected youth in every generation and I'm reminded here of "Subdivisions." While I think Mr. Wilson lacks the poetic pen of Mr. Peart ("Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth.But the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth") he still does a reasonably good job of explaining the emptiness that this generations of kids is dealing with.

The title track starts things out quite well I think with the ominous guitar riff and catchy crunch. "How can I be sure I'm here?" is a key line of the track and gets those of us one generation on from these kids to think to ourselves: what exactly can we say, what can we do to respond to that need, to that blank despair they have? We know in ourselves that Blank Planet is a mess and yet we couldn't stop ourselves from allowing another generation to fall prey to the same crap. We segue nicely into "My Ashes" which features some gorgeous melody although to be quite honest, Wilson owes Thom Yorke a royalty check for this track. Is this an outtake from "OK Computer" or what? Maybe so but it is still a pleasing track. At near 18 minutes "Anesthetize" qualifies for epic length status, featuring blissful noise guitar and lots of room which is very good. Alex's solo is fitting and quite nice although with 18 minutes to spare they could have easily given him a bit more space to elaborate. We later get into some near metal moments that nicely balance the rather pop sounding chorus in this track. What makes the track is the section from 12 minutes on where things are calmed down before a last perfect guitar lick goes to flatline. Nice ending to a truly great track.

"I never wanna be old and I don't want dependents." What a line to open "Sentimental" with and one that too many of us can relate to. This is an absolutely gorgeous song that again strikes me as pretty Radiohead but much more palatable to me. Where Radiohead will usually bore me before making me care PT seems to be able to make this work deliciously well. "Way Out of Here" is really, really good. Lots of variance in texture and pace, a beautiful chorus, Wilson's best solo, and some very inventive drumming in the metalish sections. Listen closely to this track as it might be the best on the album. "Sleep Together" unfortunately ends the album on a slightly weaker note. The "big" drums joining in at one minute are the first mistake, they should not be there or they should have been far more soft and ambient. The chorus seems pretty contrived to me and the song plods in places. I think "Way Out" would have been a better closer personally.

The material here focuses mainly on youth but I'm sure given Wilson's age that he is seeing more than "kid and x-box" when he speaks of the Blank Planet. We are entering a century with problems that seem insurmountable, from the cultural to the environmental, war, disease, poverty, justice, personal responsibility, religious fanaticism, on and on. These things and many more are what we all have to deal with, let alone the challenge of having a fulfilling and happy personal life. I'm sure that Wilson feels the kids have the potential to confront these problems. But are we giving them the support they need and are we listening to their concerns about themselves or is it easier to give them another gadget to distract them? Can we put aside our demands from our jobs to spend that extra time with them? Have we really gotten to the point where a prescription for anti-depressants is an essential part of growing up? All of the tenets of our prized economic system that hold things together have the downside potential to the human condition and perhaps Wilson will delve further into the broader picture on future albums. Are we better off continuing down this road of success as defined by profit growth potential or will there have to be a scaling back of expectation of material success at some point? While such a shift would hurt us short term economically, would not it shift back the emphasis of life to personal relationships, time to slow down, to perhaps embrace art over yet another "goal", and to leave the electronic Blank landscape for a one with a heart, pulse, flesh, earth, water, soul. Smaller community based existences for which family and connections to each other are enough, for which we are not fed this message that to succeed means "you must want it ALL, and then push for MORE." I don't mean to go off the deep end here with personal musings but these are the thoughts that FOABP brings to my head and maybe some of you have the same thoughts.

Just one more: I remember being a kid and longing for summer vacation. I remember endless days with no structure, roaming the fields behind our neighborhood with friends and exploring. Playing. Being free. Hanging out in the basements of friends or riding bikes down to the park. I remember dreading the beginning of the next school year. Perhaps those of you who grew up in the 60s and 70s know of the world I speak. Last week I heard a 13-year old exclaim how she is dreading the END of the school year and it's going to be SO boring in summer. How things change. But is that for the better? Is growing up now so about learning conformity and structure that kids today cannot deal with down time? Have they forgotten how to be kids? Does every moment of a child's life have to be filled with structured activity? League sports? Summer school programs? And is the only alternative to that the Blank Planet? I don't know but my gut tells me that kids today have been cheated out of a certain type of childhood that I can't imagine missing. What I do know is that I'm glad I'm not a kid in today's world. And we need to explain to these kids why summer is NOT boring. Again sorry for the long story but I feel it relates to the music in question. The subject matter of FOABP hopefully will help lead to these discussions in the place that matters most: living rooms.

An undeniable modern rock classic.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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