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Porcupine Tree - In Absentia CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.26 | 2619 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars The Prototypical PT Album

In Absentia regularly gets the highest marks among PT albums, was the first album of theirs I bought. I've been putting off this review for along time due to ambivalence, taking the time to review the new Incident prompted me to go back to this classic. And like that album, I'm torn between giving the album 3 and 4 stars. Two things contrast the album in mind: In Abstentia's stronger pop songwriting, and its overscrubbed production. Part of me enjoys the individual songs on In Abstentia better, as they're just more hummable and singable. But this album really is more of a crossover prog album, using prog elements to enhance what are essentially pop songs.

Steven Wilson's depressive, sarcastic lyrics appeal perfectly to the teenage goth set, but don't hold up much to scrutiny for an adult. The snipes at modern music on "The Sound of Muzak" satisfy a certain itch, but the irony is that Wilson himself is guilty of creating modern Muzak as much as anyone else. Truly tasty musical choices are rare, including the banjo on "Trains" or the Mars Volta-isms on "The Creator has a Mastertape." I also miss the crunch of later albums, seen here only in very small doses. The repetitive psychedelic sections are okay, but really only perk my ears when more exotic or spooky tonalities are used.

The biggest problem with this album is that it just seems too deliberate, too careful, too nitpicked. On "Wedding Nails" the main riff is quite stiff and it's not until the second guitar comes in that a groove finally starts. The second section using the Ministry-like two note riff is much better, but still struggles to maintain the raw emotion of Jorgenson's outfit. I know this is a prog site, but I just want to scream to Wilson to let his heart out a bit and not think so hard. At the same time, my favorite song on the album is the relatively straightforward melancholy dream-pop of "Prodigal."

Most of this has been pretty negative, but one thing is clear. Steven Wilson is very talented both as a musician and as a producer. He has one of the best left brains in the music business, and this album was made at his peak in that regard. Wilson's mastery of sound, his sense of melody and rhythm, all of the fundamentals and more are here. The music is enjoyable, and seems like work that would appeal to a relatively wide audience compared to much of the music on this site. I find myself turning to this album only once in awhile, and rarely for its entirety.

This still remains a 3+ album, a worthy addition to any fan of modern prog. The skill level alone makes a lower rating seem false, but this in no way reaches masterpiece level. My choice of a 3 rather than 4 has more to do with my taste than anything else.

Negoba | 3/5 |


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