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Porcupine Tree - The Incident CD (album) cover

THE INCIDENT

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

3.71 | 1202 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
5 stars When I joined up with this joint over three and a half years ago one of the first new-to-me bands I discovered was Porcupine Tree and for that I am grateful because their bold creativity has gone a long way in restoring my faith in the future of prog rock. In a nutshell, founder Steven Wilson and his cohorts make the kind of music that pushes all my buttons. I collected almost their entire catalogue of recordings and enjoyed hearing how they evolved over time into being what I consider the modern vanguard of the genre. In fact, I deem their pristine "Fear of a Blank Planet" to be the best album of the decade. No joke. That brilliant CD is the most poignant and brutally honest portrait of late adolescence/teenage angst and apathy since The Who's phenomenal "Quadrophenia" and the enveloping music is flawless. With that lofty assessment in mind, I'd lowered my expectations for "The Incident" simply because I didn't think it possible for them to equal their masterpiece and I was correct. They didn't. But they came damned close, delivering everything I love about this group without taking for granted or forsaking the unique characteristics that make them the force of nature they are. They're still growing. They're still exploring their unlimited potential.

The opener, "Occam's Razor," sounds like a massive, disgruntled upstairs tenant stomping on the floor of his flat, raining ceiling plaster down on our heads. Except it's God Almighty and he's had it up to here with the confused, vile melee going on below his peaceful heavenly abode. He pauses, stomps again, then broods while waiting for a response. To His disgust, mankind answers with more of the same old immoral crap in "The Blind House." The band hits it hard with Gavin Harrison's ferocious drums leading the charge as the group expertly employs their trademark manipulation of both light and heavy motifs to create magic. Steven's naked lyrics never fail to connect the dots and here he exposes the mind-control methods of the perverted monsters that quarantine their flock and cloak the sin of their unconscionable rape of the innocents beneath their ugly, unsanctified pastoral posturing. "Pray and violate/abuse your trust/false gods must/purge their lust/a family that lies/to seal your fate/to take the weight/of their self-hate," Wilson sings. At one point the song drifts into a sort of cosmic waiting room but God's indignation at the end is as violent and harsh as His inescapable justice. That gem is followed by "Great Expectations," a short burst full of the romantic PT approach that I can't ignore. It's also a preview of the mosaic pattern of presentation this album will adhere itself to. Essentially it's just a simple tune and I admire the self-restraint they impose by opting not to stretch it out into something it ain't.

"Kneel and Disconnect" is a somber piano, acoustic guitar and three-part harmony piece that bemoans the drudgery of a life lost in the futility of the human obsession with finding a fulfilling "career." For the lengthier "Drawing the Line" Gavin's finely-tuned tubs create a smooth, rolling sensation on the verses that stands in stark contrast to the stringent edge presented in the chorus and the swaying guitar solo is effectively disorienting. The words portray a man who has been under the thumb of the devil far too long and is finally taking back his soul. "Recording all my problems onto memory cards/your compassion unmoved/unto others what they always do to you/the most twisted of your rules," Steven rails in exasperation. They segue seamlessly into "The Incident," where a viscous, undulating synth groove sucks you into its irresistible tow and a sinister aura builds steadily up to Harrison's striking entrance. One of the many charms of this group is how they toss in a healthy dose of metal at just the right juncture to press their point home and they do that here to emphasize words describing the protagonist's panic at finding out what a sick puppy he's become. "When a car crash gets you off/you've lost your grip," he confesses. Later on the dark skies lighten a bit and the music becomes almost uplifting as he ponders the idea that all his gruesome neuroses stem from his desperate, narcissistic need to be loved and he repeats that revelation like a mantra. It's the cornerstone of the CD in more ways than one.

"Your Unpleasant Family" is a small ditty of passing importance but it's an example of how Steven shares his ordinary yet relatable thoughts and his slashing slide guitar work provides a nice change of scenery. The instrumental "The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train" emits a dense beauty not unlike a Monet painting as eerie synthesized voices appear in the aural mist like ghosts. Severely strummed acoustic guitars give "Time Flies" a driving urgency and by the time the full ensemble jumps in on the second verse to broaden the song's scope you're hooked like a marlin. Wilson's David Gilmore-ish bright- as-a-beacon descending guitar chords are spectacular and the floating instrumental break is contemplative and patient. The wicked guitar ride that ensues festers like doubt before it explodes in a fit of rage and frustration and at the tune's end the fragmented notes linger, suspended in air like afterthoughts. Steven has learned what everyone who crosses the threshold of 30 finds out in that "after a while you realize that time flies/and the best thing that you can do/is take whatever comes to you/'cause time flies," he admits. No one escapes the ticking of the clock, not even rock stars. In "Degree Zero of Liberty" God has been roused from His serene rest by our rude goings on once again and He throws another room-shaking tantrum to remind us that He's the ultimate landlord and He can evict us at any time if we dare push Him too far.

"Octane Twisted" has the signature PT melancholy, dreamlike texture that leads to a strong metallic interlude in which Gavin displays his ability to dominate and astonish with his amazing technique. It contains a great line that plunges to the heart of many a progger: "Give me something new, please, something I can love," he croons. "The Séance" is an extension of the previous number's spooky vibe but it's also a subdued roadside rest stop of reflection that culminates in a wall of terse acoustic guitars. "Circle of Manias" is an all-out foray into their metal wardrobe as they take you on an exhilarating ride that makes even this aging geezer bang his noggin. Disc 1's finale is its crowning jewel, the enthralling "I Drive the Hearse." On most of their albums there are always a few songs that are extraordinary and this is definitely of that ilk. It's awesomely arranged and performed, Wilson bares his soul in the remorseful lyrics and the song's gradual evaporation at the end is suitably deep and dramatic, thanks in no small part to bassist Colin Edwin's complimentary bass lines. "Silence is another way of saying what I want to say/and lying is another way of hoping it will go away/and you were always my mistake," Steven laments. The older you get the more likely it will be that you'll feel exactly the same about someone in your past. This tune is gorgeous.

Disc 2 is different in a sense because it's more of a combined group-writing effort but there's no dip in quality at all. "Flicker" owns a hypnotic feel that flows like a stream and it's one of those cuts that warrants careful attention being given to what's going on in the background. The musicianship is mind-boggling. The Ecclesiastically-inspired words are excellent, too. "Nothing is new here underneath the sun/all of the big new charlatans will sneer at us/barely a flicker of the light to come/only the people who always think they know best," Wilson intones, knowing they can't please everybody. On "Bonnie the Cat" we get a glimpse into the decidedly creepier corners of their psyche. Gavin's flaming footwork flabbergasts throughout and they all indulge freely in some intense molten metal exercises that'll singe your eyebrows. Keyboard man Richard Barbieri supplies the electric piano- heavy score for "Black Dahlia" and Wilson penned the lyrics for this low-key but lovely air of introspection. Again he draws on Solomon for wisdom. "There's nothing here for you under the sun/there's nothing new to do, it's all been done/so put your faith in another place," he sings. The album closer, "Remember Me Lover," is an instance of this talented band transcending even my high expectations. It's a magnificent composition containing a tapestry of varied textures and hues as well as a blend of hard and soft passions that thoroughly satisfies the prog mammal in me. I love no-holds-barred lyrics about relationships and Steven outdoes himself here with lines like "I didn't wanna feel like a slave to your mood swings/and I'm not saying anything I wouldn't say behind your back," he warbles without a trace of shame. They leave you with a devastatingly fierce coda that leads right up to the brink of a bottomless abyss. Yeah, boy, they wowed me again.

Obviously, I'm an unabashed PT fanman. I admit it. They deliver the brand of groceries that keep me alive and invigorated. If you don't care for what they've done since the millennium then you should skip this and save your lettuce. On the other hand, if you still spin "FOABP," "In Absentia" and "Deadwing" on a regular basis I then you'll be delighted with what they've produced here, as well. I get turned on by most everything they do from the pristine drum tracks to the gargantuan guitars to the thought-provoking lyrics and topical themes Wilson deals openly with. They haven't let me down yet. So how does a band follow up the album of the decade? With the album of the year, that's how. 4.6 stars.

Chicapah | 5/5 |

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