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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 | 1875 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Fear Of A Blank Planet, Porcupine Tree, 2007

My problem with Fear Of A Blank Planet is that it is an absolute non-event. I can go through an entire listening without thinking of a single bit that I either particularly like or dislike... a fairly tame set of vocals (going for a representative non-voice, and since the lyrics aren't representative, it basically ends up being a complete non-representation) and the ridiculous preconceptions of the lyrics (I mean, seriously, 'X-box is a god to me'...) admittedly don't help it much. No complaints with the performance, nor really with the compositions; it just continues to make no impression, except for the occasional nail-biting lyric.

Keys and a slightly Opeth-flavoured acoustic introduce a very much alt-rock number. Somehow, despite a number of individual features that seem appealing (Harrison's drumming, cool harmonies, memorable melodies, birdcall guitars, some ornamentation), the overall texture is a sort of cold soup (not mushroom, though: that tastes even better cold), which, despite nice components and a bit of forethought, has been left out on the side in the concept album kitchen too long to hit the spot.

Way Out Of Here, as a cooler number, seems to work better. Menacing electronic throbbing creates an undercurrent for a slightly Quadrophenian verse (perhaps the theme, perhaps the style but that's what it reminds me of) and a great entrance by Harrison. The sort of slow-metal groove of the chorus is effective; the guitar solo and that plain dull metal bit entirely unhelpful... I mean, why do I want to hear a generic metal riff in the middle of a pop song... it just doesn't add anything? All in all, a bigger ratio of 'oh, that's nice' to 'where did the last seven and a half minutes go', but I'd still be surprised if it's a 1:1.

Sentimental sees a sort of effort at a moment of brief hope in the o so real wasteland of desolate computer-screen-starers who no longer care about anything with a cheery piano, and more or less non-depressive melodies. Admittedly, the vocals seem as doom-and-gloom as ever (I'll spare the lyrics; you probably know what I think by now). All in all, it's a fairly harmless alt-rock song with a particularly decent set of background guitar solos and still a non-event.

Anesthetize is like an epic poem in that it's long and has a suitable amount of repetition... it's also a bit like a stool with two legs, where the missing leg is quite important. The vocals are just about blank, but somehow not blank enough to convince me that I should forgive their content (moderately loong syllables with no colour or flavour all over). There are a few, rare, really spine-tingling moments where the whole band pulls together in a manner just about moody enough to convince you that, even if the album's message is ridiculous, if it were about something else, you'd be impressed. Lifeson's guest solo is neat, as is the burst of jamming over a speaker-switching riff. These flashes of excellence meet with the dreaded repetition as a springboard:  'relax... I know that was a bit quick, so calm down, wait until you think you're in your comfort zone... we had a metal riff... have it again... we might develop it when we're sure you're OK with it... ready... alright, have a bit more content... it's OK...'

Maybe I'm just more picky about what should be in a long song than when I first started, and as said, there are some glorious moments in Anesthetize but the repeats, the first couple of sets of vocals and the lyrics do put down what at times emerges into something of a quality, structured epic. Admittedly, the structure's just about lost on me (meaning: only the immediate contrast makes an impression). Again, it could make a bigger impression than it does, but it's on the nice side.

My Ashes is a small step up for the album's more friendly material, augmented by a set of lyrics I can conveniently pretend are about something completely different, a nice vocal melody, a contrast between the piano and guitars and some synth strings which I fear criticising in case it actually turns out to be Fripp (who later on makes some suitably bizarre soundscapes). Harrison's entrance darkens and hollows out and cools the whole thing in a manner pretty typical of the album. Another not-really there track.

Sleep Together features more of the throbbing synths (and a great sound on them: a nod to the producer to make up for all the nasty things I've been saying about the lyrics), as well as metallic moments that are credible and add to the song. Some sly oddball guitar licks, a constant keyboard presence and thick metallic drumming add up to a slightly more exciting ending to a generally bland album. Even if a Midsomer Murders incidental music type melody is drawn out a bit and the concept remains the just victim of a Harold-The-Barrel scene where I harangue it to just jump already and leave the rest of us to deal with more menacing and genuine types of angst. Still, musically, it's not bad.

Writing all this, I've realised that my problem with this album is simply that I can't take it seriously... the lyrics seem like a parody more than an insight, and consequently all the concept album paraphernalia... picked voices, moments of contrast and triumph and so forth, fall flat. Anyway, if you don't care about lyrics, or spend more than 50% of your waking hours complaining about the sinister results of the internet via the medium of progressive rock forums, this is probably not a bad place to start with Porcupine Tree... I mean, I can see how, if I could ignore the concept and pretend it was about hobbits or tantric scriptures or how you got Christopher Lee to add voiceovers or something a bit more credible, I'd possibly really like this album. As it is; two stars for an album that really, my collection would be just fine without.

Rating: Two Stars Favourite Track: Anesthetize or Sleep Together, I guess.

TGM: Orb | 2/5 |

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