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Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.00 | 1329 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars After two glorious, galaxy-spanning albums, the space-rock version of PORCUPINE TREE went into hibernation with 'Signify'. Now, after three years, they have re-emerged a quite different beast, having discarded their old psych/space rock skin for the metallic sheen of alt rock. 'Stupid Dream' showcases PORCUPINE TREE as a fully professional, integrated band, rather than STEVEN WILSON's side project, with a very strong set of material.

As with much of what WILSON has been involved in, there is a caveat. If you like your prog on the ragged edge, filled with risk, surprises and originality, go shop elsewhere. But if your shopping list includes words like beauty, glory, harmony, structure and musicianship, you're in the right store. On second thoughts, perhaps there is still an air of space rock here, at least in the synths and guitar fills. Whatever, it's beautiful.

Let's sample the goods. 'Even Less' is a stunner straight out of the box. The main riff is played, then expanded and amplified, the first in what later becomes many PORCUPINE TREE trademark metal-edged rock songs. Stunning riff, beautiful chorus, enigmatic, disturbing lyrics, the PT formula. I have yet to tire of it. Yes, I wish the full 14 minute version of this track had been included, but it is now widely available. This version finishes tamely, but leads into 'Piano Lessons', another clear signal of PT Mark II. Simply beautiful pop. WILSON has transferred that bubbling pop energy he infused NO-MAN with in the early 1990s to this incarnation of PORCUPINE TREE, leaving NO-MAN to become a vehicle for his more minimalist, spacey music. If it wasn't for this band's silly name, 'Piano Lessons' would surely have been a hit.

'Pure Narcotic' is a reflective pop ballad, but somehow, in the context of this album, it becomes more. The production is sharp, the song's placement is clever, and the segue from the short title track serves to integrate it into the wider PT vision. 'Slave Called Shiver' is more experimental, a bass-driven monster with a weird chorus, just what we needed to lift the album from it's pop fixation. 'Don't Hate Me', a largely acoustic number, slows the pace, and is followed by three perfectly formed songs. WILSON has clearly developed a knack for this. 'Stranger By The Minute' is the clearest example of how he can work a hook: the harmonised chorus is beautiful, and the pleasant effect is used on subsequent albums.

The album's highlight is the last three songs, to my mind a suite to be listened to as one. 'A Smart Kid' has such a melancholy melody it's hard to resist immersing yourself in the sound. Here the sound and subject matter reverts to the band's spacey roots, as happens near the end of subsequent PT albums. The song segues into 'Tinto Brass', a startling, ominous instrumental and a feature of PT's live sets. The brakes are off and the band goes into full 'Up The Downstair' mode. 'Stop Swimming' is a complete downer, this album's 'Sleep Together', a page from WILSON's suicide manual, the musical equivalent of a punch to the solar plexus. Subtle, beautiful and bitter, a soundscape of desperation.

In my view, this is the third of four absolutely essential PORCUPINE TREE albums. Just don't listen to it if you need cheering up.

russellk | 5/5 |


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