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Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.02 | 1523 ratings

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3 stars Four Chords That Made a Marillion?

All that glisters is not gold.

And with that obscure statement, I turn your attention to "Lightbulb Sun", which has a fabulous production which is almost tangible, producing an album which is, overall, inoffensive - I would use the word "nice" - but not very original musically and difficult to perceive as prog. To quantify that last statement, the songs are generally in the traditional Intro, Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Verse-Chorus format, and do not deviate far from that safety net on the whole, there is nothing new here in terms of song writing or arrangement that you wouldn't hear on "Revolver" and the overall effect is of a pop/rock album of which any track would fit in well on any FM Rock station.

Since many reviewers have taken a track-by-track approach, I will follow suit;

The title track sounds like something from Marillion's "Anoraknaphobia", with flat, uninteresting melodies and a surprisingly unstructured guitar solo that comes across as "intentional bluff". The bass lines are very Pete Trewavas, and the vocals are almost unmistakably h, although somewhat less precious, underlining the Marillion link. It's unremarkable, but nice.

"How is Your LIfe Today?" is in 3/4, but is still just a nice pop/rock song.

"Four Chords That Made A Million", of course, did not live up to the title, and is derivative of 80's indie band the Cult but with vocals that sound like Matt Bellamy from Muse. Basic 4/4 rock with a time change around 2:30 for the bridge.

"Shesmovedon" has an interesting title and is nice overall; The basic E-G riff that is used throughout is the one exception, as that is poorly executed with vertical issues (in the harmony) that cause it to sound muddy. The production is particularly noticeable, as this song as a nice, fat sound, which enhances the BJH style vocal harmonies. The 1st guitar solo is very rough and spoils it a bit, but we do get some proggy textures in the "burn-out" section at the end, albeit with a noodly and directionless 2nd guitar solo.

"Last Chance to Exit Planet Earth" has a great opportunity to do something progressive, with its Roy Harper influenced intro and fretless bass work that puts me in mind of Camel, or "Wherever I Lay My Hat" by Paul Young. The vocal harmonies are interestingly like Crosby Stills and Nash and there is a guitar sample that sounds like it was directly lifted from "Revolver". There are some interesting textural experiments, but layering textures is not a progressive way of writing music - that's been done since the 1960s! This is the most interesting track, IMO.

"The Rest Will Flow" is a nice, gentle MOR song, repetitive but tranquil. The melody lines are the real let-down, as there is no discernable answering phrasing, just repeated lines which serve no dramatic purpose. There is some orchestration, but it is over-produced and somewhat syrupy for my taste.

"Hatesong" is an 8 and a half minuter - hopefully we will find some prog here. Well, only if you consider "Anoraknaphobia" to be a prog album. The breakbeat could have been lifted from any one of a vast number of sample CDs, and is somewhat dull, but I like the bass intro (as a bassist!). The spacey guitar effects and vocals are very Radiohead, and were obviously inspired by "OK Computer" - a far more progressive album than this. Even the vocals sound a little like Thom Yorke. The two stops are a bit irritating as they break the flow, although the heavy Zeppelin-like riff is very welcome. The solos again are directionless, and the song feels about 2-3 minutes too long, especially with that long fadeout. Nice, though.

"Where Would We Be" is an unadventurous pop/rock song, rather dirge-like and directionless. The abrupt and unnecessary guitar solo spoils any ambience this song might otherwise have had. The urge to hit skip is quite strong here...

But I wanted to experience the whole album, and the 13 or so minute track which looms ahead is now daunting, rather than tantalising as it was when I began listening;

"Russia On Ice" has a great intro - superb ambient floaty textures with lots of reverb, reminding me a little of Steve Hillage's "Rainbow Dome Musick". I wish it hadn't, because the light cymbals and guitar soon intrude into the ambience after just a minute. The Pink Floyd riff, straight off the "Animals" album is well executed, but the vocals are pure h. There is a constant stop-start approach taken in this track to get to new ideas, which becomes a little wearying - especially the sudden jump to a major key BJH style, and the piece takes on the form of a patchwork quilt of ideas (many very good and interesting, but none original or consistent) which do not develop or progress in any way.

I couldn't bring myself to listen to the last track, as I'm sure I would have found myself making similar observations.

All in all, despite my focus on the negative (which is what jumps out at me when I put the music under the microscope), a nice pop/rock album, perfect for doing the dishes to - but I wouldn't give it my undivided attention!

Three Stars, and I'm being generous.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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