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Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun CD (album) cover

LIGHTBULB SUN

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

4.01 | 1057 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

infandous
3 stars Even though I've had this album in MP3 format for several years, I didn't feel right about posting a review until I actually owned the album. That sentence requires a bit of explanation. A good friend of mine, who had bought the album all those years ago (2001), didn't much care for it (or the other PTree albums of that period). I liked one (The Sky Moves Sideways), so he gave me MP3's of a couple of their albums (this one, Stupid Dream and Signify). I listed to them, and didn't like them either. I forgot about them for a while.

Fast forward several years (to last year, to be exact) and the hype surrounding Fear Of A Blank Planet drove me to pick up that album, which then drove me to reevaluate their back catalog. Much to my dismay, I found myself quite enjoying most everything they had ever done (though I still find FOABP to be one of their weaker albums overall). So, reading that remasters of Stupid Dream and Lightbulb Sun were coming out, I opted to wait for those (well Stupid Dream was already out in remastered form......but Lightbulb was my favorite of the two). Anyway, I picked up the Lightbulb Sun remaster recently, and felt now was the time for this review (since I've been listening to it for over a year now).

First off, there is no denying the incredible sound quality of this album, remastered or not. Wilson is, if nothing else, a master at making his own productions (and those of others as well, probably) sound crystal clear with perfect instrument separation, or blending, whichever is most perfect for a given section of music. In fact, I wonder if that is not a large part of the appeal of his projects. Perhaps. In any case, this is an album of music from a time when Wilson apparently was trying to be more song oriented. The previous album took this to something of an extreme (though it is still a good album), while this one brings back some elements of the more spacey and psychedelic early albums (at least in one track, anyway).

While I rarely think of this band as a prog band, I can't help but not care as the music is just so enjoyable to me. The first four tracks are very well constructed alt pop type numbers, that just get under your skin and won't let go (in a good way, not an annoying way like many pop songs can do). Beautiful arrangements, subdued yet very effective vocals, and wonderful use of the studio mark these tracks off as something outside the ordinary. The lyrics, as usual, are fairly dark and depressing, but if you enjoy PTree you are certainly used to this by now. For myself, I hardly even notice anymore. And herein lies a small complaint.....sometimes Wilson sounds like a whiny, overwrought teenager feeling sorry for himself. For the most part though, the lyrics are decent, sometimes (like on the first track) even great.

Last Chance...., starts as another pop number, but then goes on to have a second instrumental half that includes samples of the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult explaining why he and all the members would have to commit suicide. Very creepy, very effective. Good song. What follows is something of a surprise, in that it is an actual upbeat song from Ptree! Even the lyrics are not depressing!!!! You almost think you are listening to another band. But no, it is definitely Wilson. The song itself is not particularly special aside from this oddity, but not bad either.

Hatesong is one of my favorites on here. Great lyrics (if a bit juvenile in places), great instrumental sections, great arrangement. Being over 8 minutes long, it breaks the mold of the previous album and the previous tracks, to very good effect. This is followed by a rather nondescript poppy number, which again is not bad, but doesn't really stand out much. Nice melody, nice instrumentation, not much more to say about that.

Russia On Ice is as proggy as it has been for this band for nearly two albums. And even then, this is more a Pink Floyd song than anything else. A brooding, slow, dark verse with a powerful bridge (featuring Gilmore-esque guitar solo), followed by another brooding, slow, dark verse into a bright and soaring chorus that brings the chorus of Comfortably Numb to mind (maybe a bit too much actually, but still quite beautiful). We then have another lovey guitar solo, followed by another verse and chorus (same as the earlier ones), which leads into a much heavier and more frantic instrumental section that eventually peters out into psychedelic sounds. Despite the similarity to Floyd, I love this tune. Great arrangement and instrumentation, but the best thing is the atmosphere. When it comes to dark and brooding atmospheres, Wilson is a master.

Finally, we have a track that features one of Wilson's strong suits..........taking a lovely, simple and repetitive melodic song and placing dismally depressing lyrics over the top of it. And somehow, it works beautifully.

I haven't had a chance to check out the DVD yet, but I don't have a DVD-A player anyway (though I assume the thing will play on my computer). However, I have heard the song Buying New Soul before, and it is a brilliant piece that should have been on the album (Pure Narcotic is good too, but definitely is more of an extras type of track than an album track). Similar in structure to Russia On Ice, but with a more interesting verse and chorus, and a similar ending instrumental section.

If this were a prog album, I'd be temped to give it 5 stars (but I probably wouldn't even then). As it's not, I'll go with 3.5 stars, with the caveat that if you take it for what it is (i.e. not a prog album), it is easily 4 stars. I consider this essential for any fan of the band, but this is a prog rock site and this really isn't prog rock (except for one, possibly two tracks). So a final rating of 3.5, but rounded down due to the lack of prog content.

infandous | 3/5 |

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