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Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.00 | 1375 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Better by the Minute

Stupid Dream has for a while now become what I feel is a crowning achievement for Porcupine Tree, with all the subsequent albums being constantly flawed at some point (but still quite good - kudos to PT for that). It arrives after what I consider a somewhat failed experiment (Signify) which in turn had followed a masterpiece (The Sky Moves Sideways). One of the impressive things about Stupid Dream is that the band did not become discouraged at all by Signify, and decided to pursue that style, while upgrading the formula, mixing their earlier psychedelic-spacey sound with a hard rock approach, yet at the same time creating a very easy and pleasant album to listen, despite the depressive mood that haunts it. The overall sound of the album ranges from Hard-Prog to Space, aggressive to mellow, happy to desperate, while the lyrics are filled with frustration, submission, and aggressive, suicidal or even apocalyptic moods.

Even Less, one of the heavier songs on the album, has become a staple in PT's career, with its powerful slow riff that drives the entire song, after the strings intro, and its despairing message of frustration. The follow up, Piano Lessons, has a fantastic piano and guitar solo section, great vocal performance, and an interesting "In your face!" message in the lyrics. After the short, instrumental title track (mostly strings and electronic sounds) comes another great PT classic. Pure Narcotic is an acoustic guitar and piano driven song, briefly complemented by keyboards before the introduction of a more electric solo section, that fades to another vocal part. The funky bass and percussion opening of Slave Called Shiver, complemented by the repetitive piano chords, almost let us now from the start that this won't be a "nice" song. Fantastic vocals and atmospheric background music can be heard before the electric guitars introduce the heavier vocal-less sections. Don't Hate Me is a generally more melancholic song, with gentle vocals from Wilson and fantastic keyboard work by Barbieri. The middle section of the song features a drowsy piece of flutework and saxophone, in a section very reminiscent of early PT and. later Pink Floyd. It is followed by an ambient like part that introduces the final section, a reprise of the first, this time featuring a final guitar solo. This Is No Reharsal is another musically merrier tune, a rare thing in this album, with very fast paced sections and a funky middle section with the appropriate Wilson solo. Baby Dream in Cellophane features Wilson's slightly distorted vocals over acoustic guitar chords and spacey slide guitar. Lovely chorus and power riff complement the remaining of the song. Another of the musically happy/lyrically dark tunes is the more pop-oriented song Stranger By The Minute. Structurally its not an impressive tune, but the way it is sung, played and arranged makes for a great listen. The track that follows it is the less-poppy, more melancholic and completely apocalyptical A Smart Kid. This song features amazing atmospheric sounds, that really give an image of desolation, a beautiful emotional chorus, and a delightful final guitar solo. After the heavier sounding Even Less, Porcupine Tree decide to destroy what is left of the amplifiers with Tinto Brass, a funky space-rock tune that turns into a metal extravaganza - a clear sign, along with Russia on Ice, of the music Porcupine Tree would be playing regularly from In Absentia on. If memory serves me, Steven Wilson once said of Stop Swimming to be one of his favourite compositions. We can only agree. It was probably the harder song on the album to get into, such was the sadness and despair present in both music and lyrics. But after quite a few listens we finally get to see the beauty in it, and understand why Wilson chose it over the second half of Even Less to end the album.

None of the songs on Stupid Dream is my absolute favourite by Porcupine Tree. Yet they are all of great quality. Stupid Dream is a rare album in the sense that it has no highlights, because all the songs are equally good (the only one that can be considered sub-par is the title track, for obvious reasons). The band sounds a lot tighter than on Signify or even The Sky Moves Sideways, and that shows in the quality of the arrangements, the beautiful sound textures and sonic landscapes they evoke and the general feel of a great experience lived conveyed by the album once it ends. Steven Wilson presents here some great vocal performances, still developing (they will get better) and probably his best guitar work to date. In fact, every single member of the band is at the top of his game on this album. From a progressive rock point of view, Stupid Dream manages to reach out to a wider audience while still being faithful to the standards of experimentation and musical breakthrough that characterize prog. It's easy-listening Prog, and it sounds great, getting better by the minute.

Kotro | 5/5 |


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