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

FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.25 | 2320 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 126

"Fear Of A Blank Planet" is the ninth studio album of Porcupine Tree and was released in 2007. Steven Wilson has mentioned that the album's title is a direct reference to Public Enemy's album of 1990, with the same name. Public Enemy is an American hip hop group and they're better known for their politically charged lyrics and criticism of the American media, with an active interest in the frustrations and concerns of the African American community. However, while Public Enemy's album was about race issues, Porcupine Tree's album was about coming to terms with the 21st century technology, the technology which is generally used massively by all Western world civilization.

The concept of the album was heavily influenced by Bret Easton Ellis' novel "Lunar Park". The novel is told from the perspective of a father, who bears the name of the novel's author himself, whereas the album is mostly from his son's perspective. Many of the lyrics of the album are lifted directly from the novel. The lyrics deal with two typical neurobehavioral development disorders affecting teenagers in the 21st century, such as, bipolar disorder and attention deficit disorder, and also with other common behaviour tendencies of youth like escapism by drugs, social alienation caused by technology and a feeling of vacuity, a product of information overload by the mass media.

The line up on the album is Steven Wilson (vocals, guitars, piano and keyboards), Richard Barbieri (keyboards and synthesizers), Colin Edwin (bass guitars) and Gavin Harrison (drums). It has also the participation of Alex Liefson (guitar), Robert Fripp (keyboards and synthesizers), John Wesley (backing vocals) and the London Session Orchestra.

"Fear Of A Blank Planet" has six tracks. All songs were written and composed by Steven Wilson, except "My Ashes" with music by Wilson and Barbieri and "Way Out Of Here" with music by all four band members. The first track is the title track "Fear Of A Blank Planet". The clacking of a computer keyboard leads the album's opener into a haze of an aggressive song writing and slightly discordant ambience that immediately characterizes Steve's concept. The lyrics clearly condemn the mesmerizing effect of video and the computers on a child. Musically, we find heavy guitars, processed voice, great keyboard working and catchy choruses. The second track "My Ashes" is the opposite of the first track. It's a fairly retro ballad, driven by a quiet and unassuming synthesizer riff. It does get a tiny bit epic towards the end, but it's a lower key counterpoint to the opener which immediately demonstrates to the listener the real breath of the sounds that Porcupine Tree is capable of achieving and, more immediately, how cohesive they can make them seem. The third track "Anesthetize" is the epic song of the album. Unlike other Porcupine Tree's epics this isn't really one piece of music with a start, an instrumental middle piece and the return to the original melody. Instead of that, this new epic has three songs joined together. All three combine perfectly. This is indeed one of the best pieces of music that the band has ever recorded. The fourth track "Sentimental" is a very beautiful ballad with piano and drums accompanied by acoustic guitar, voice and a grand piano. The song is a typical emotional Porcupine Tree's ballad that even contains a very beautiful Spanish guitar solo. This is the kind of songs that wouldn't have been out of place on "Stupid Dream" or "Lightbuld Sun". The fifth track "Way Out Of Here" is a very good track that explores many different musical ideas with seven and a half minutes. It's the only full band's composition on the album and it also features a musical section with some of the loudest metal riffs on the album. This is a very tasteful song with a very mysterious musical ambience enhanced by some characteristics Fripp's soundscapes. The sixth track "Sleep Together" is a strange song that starts with subdued vocals, very electronic and many synthesizer effects. After some time, the drum beat comes in and the song eventually builds to a climax with a massive use of orchestral strings. This is a very interesting and inventive way to end this magnificent album and that leaves the listener eager for much, much more.

Conclusion: In many ways "Fear Of A Blank Planet" is one of the best Porcupine Tree's albums and is also my favourite studio album from the band. Lyrically, it's a lot more understandable and I like very much the concept used for the lyrics. Musically, the album seems like the accumulation of everything the group has done before, thereby creating a total that's greater than the sum of the individual parts, I think. I sincerely think that it's rather difficult to find any fault and any lack of cohesion on this album. It's very strong in all aspects and doesn't have a dull moment on it. Of course it has its quiet moments but none of them are dull. Steven Wilson demonstrates once again why he is considered one of the best sound engineers at the moment and one of the best producers too. So, I really can't find any reason not to give 5 stars to this album and considered it a masterpiece. It should be in every progressive rock lover's musical collection, because it shows Porcupine Tree at their best. It's due to albums like this one, that progressive rock is still alive today.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |

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