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Porcupine Tree

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Porcupine Tree XM  album cover
3.73 | 167 ratings | 11 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Live, released in 2003

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Blackest Eyes (4:26)
2. The Sound of Muzak (5:02)
3. Gravity Eyelids (7:30)
4. Wedding Nails (5:17)
5. Even Less / Slave Called Shiver (11:38)
6. Heartattack in a Layby (4:16)
7. Strip the Soul (7:06)
8. Tinto Brass (6:38)

Total Time: 52:12

Line-up / Musicians

- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitars
- Richard Barbieri / keyboards
- Colin Edwin / bass
- Gavin Harrison / drums

Guest musician:
- John Wesley / guitar, backing vocals

Releases information

Transmission (band's own label) 1.1

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to gabrielpenteado for the last updates
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PORCUPINE TREE XM ratings distribution

(167 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(57%)
Good, but non-essential (18%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by evenless
4 stars "XM" was recorded live at XM Satellite Radio Performance Studio One, Washington DC, USA, 12th November 2002. On "XM" Porcupine Tree features a 5 piece touring line up including special guest John Wesley on guitar and backing vocals.

"XM" is played in a live setting, but recorded without the "disturbing" audience. The track list of "XM" is superb. The only song that doesn't really please me is "Wedding Nails", but this is just a matter of personal taste. Furthermore every note and tone are played with the utmost perfection. The only song we can hear that it is not done completely live is "Heartattack in a Layby" as it is impossible for Steven Wilson to layer multiple voices live. So there must have been one tape playing during the recording session, or the layering could have been done afterwards by SW at "No Man's Land"

The original Transmission 1.1 version was limited to 1500 copies with a repress of 1000 copies as Transmission 1.2 Needless to say that with a total print of only 2500 copies this item is very rare and highly sought after. Therefore one has to save quite some money to get an original copy of "XM" nowadays. Fortunately "XM" is also available in a downloadable MP3 version (complete with artwork) in the Porcupine Tree Download Store at for not even 7,00

4.5 stars as I think XMII is even better and deserves the full 5 stars.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars This is a "studio" live album from this amazing band. I do not like that much the sterilized atmosphere of such "concerts". In this case it will be recorded in the XM satelite studios (US based) for braodcasting and there is absolutely no audience nor band intervention that indicates that this is a live album. Sound quality is excellent of course, but it lacks a bit of humanity (Are we not men ? We are PT !).

Since "Absentia" needed some promotion (which is normal) the band will play six songs from this album (out of eight featured here). I was moderately enthusiast about "Absentia" (three stars) and since one the two great songs ("3") is not included in here I can hardly be laudatory for "XM".

"Even Less - Slave Called Shiver"and "Tinto Brass" come from "Stupid Dream". I mentioned already in my review of this album that "Tinto..." was far from being attractive. My opinion has not changed with this version.

It is a good album but far from being essential. "PT" die-hard fans will be pleased of course but I wouldn't recommend this live release for the casual proghead who would like to discover the band. So far, "Coma Divine" remains the reference.

"PT" also starts a less productive period in terms of new album material. Between "Absentia" in 2002 and their latest "Fear Of A Blank Planet" (2007) the band will only release one studio album : "Deadwing" in 2005.

Three stars.

Review by Prog Leviathan
3 stars A good mix of songs featuring the bands newish live sound in a hardly-live environment (an XM radio studio). The production is crisp and clear, and the band delivers their expected fine performances. However, there are few moments of "live" magic, which makes the recording as a whole come across as very sterile. Moments of improvisation or alteration of songs (which always makes live shows more fun) are absent, which makes owning this one almost irrelevant if one has the studio releases. Still, the fine performances and updated take on older songs makes for a good listening alternative to the studio versions, even if they aren't that much different.

Setlist 3 Instrumental Performances 4 Stage Energy 2 Live Experience 2

Review by progkidjoel
4 stars A great (semi) live album from PT!

Originally released in 2003 under the band's own Transmission label, Porcupine Tree's live album XM has been out of print for a while. Due to a recent online MP3 release of the rare recording, I decided to cash in. What you get for your money (6.35GBP for 256KBPS MP3's or 8.30GBP for FLAC's. This download also comes with a PDF of the album art work) is a great live recording worthy of any PT fan. Unfortunately, this is recorded without the presence of an audience - while this means you can much more easily hear the band playing, it does feel somewhat sterile. This does not ruin the recording, although lends it a different quality.

The recording quality, however, is fantastic, and lends the songs (particularly Gravity Eyelids, The Sound Of Muzak and Blackest Eyes) some lovely dynamic qualities. The guitar sounds are all distinguishable, and the instruments all play perfectly. The drum presence from Mr. Harrison is much stronger than on the studio recordings, and the tracks have a much more rhythmically heavy feel.

The set-list is also good, but not great in this reviewer's opinion; the decision to combine Even Less and Slave Called Shiver into the same track is a bit annoying, although nothing major. The highlights are Strip The Soul, Gravity Eyelids and Wedding Nails, all which have an ecstatic live sound and energy. Six out of the Eight tracks here come from In Absentia (Blackest Eyes, The Sound Of Muzak, Gravity Eyelids, Wedding Nails, Heartattack In A Layby and Strip The Soul) and the remaining two tracks come from Stupid Dream (Even Less and Slave Called Shiver).

By no means essential, but definitely a worthy addition to the collection of any PT fan. Its a shame this is no longer available on CD.

Four out of 5 stars for XM! -Joel

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is an in-studio live recording at XM Satellite Studios in Washington. It's made up of mostly "In Absentia" tracks because that particular studio album was just released earlier that same year in 2002.

"Blackest Eyes" opens with the words: "A mother sings a lullaby to a child. Sometime in the future the boy goes wild..." Ah yes one of PT's more popular tunes. I like the calm before 3 1/2 minutes. "The Sound Of Muzak" is another hit with some great sounding guitar before 3 minutes. "Gravity Eyelids" opens with the beautiful waves of mellotron,lots of that throughout this track. Oh my ! Nice bass 2 1/2 minutes in and all hell breaks loose 2 minutes later. Amazing tune.

"Wedding Nails" is a killer uptempo instrumental. So far all of these have been off "In Absentia" until now when "Even Less / Slave Called Shiver" are sort of joined together (not really). The first song is classic PT the second features nice chunky bass and crisp drumwork. Intense ending to this one. "Heartattack In A Layby" is a gorgeous track. "Strip The Soul" is more down and dirty. Check out the guitar before 4 1/2 minutes and how powerful it is a minute later. "Tinto Brass" is an instrumental that recalls OZRIC TENTACLES until it turns more powerful 4 1/2 minutes in.

Well I can relate to the 3 star ratings because if you have the studio album your good to go right ? Well for me this is an excellent addition to my collection (thanks Bonnek). When you look at all of PT's live albums they really try not to duplicate tracks from one album to another. Sure it happens but there are some really good live versions of tracks here you won't find anywhere else.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Ever since In Absentia, Porcupine Tree has been releasing various live albums. Virtually all of those are classy products, professionally executed and carefully mastered. As to their relavance for non-fans, the quality varies though.

XM is remarkable for being recorded live in the Satellite Radio Performance studio without audience. With the exception of Gravity Eyelids that received a slightly different vocal for the chorus, the renditions here don't differ an inch from the studio versions. They're a bit rougher in sound but not specifically heavier or more energetic.

XM is the first PT recording to feature new live recruit John Wesley. That's why I looked with interest to the songs from Stupid Dream, the only album featured here next to In Absentia. But unlike later live albums such as Anesthetize, John Wesley hardly participates here on these pre-In Absentia songs. Only Tinto Brass offers something to look forward to due to some slightly re-arranged guitar parts and synths.

Decent, but hardly recommendable to anyone but the hard-core fanbase. Counting myself to that gang, I'd still suggest the countless studio EPs and rarities that feature some original material over the carbon-copy live versions compiled here.

Review by Warthur
4 stars As the title implies, Porcupine Tree's XM is a live-in-the-studio session for XM radio in Washington D.C. - as such, it doesn't have the ambience of a live album, but it does showcase the capacity of the band to pull off this material in person. As one might expect from a November 2002 session, material from In Absentia features heavily - in fact, six of the titles here come from it, with the remaining tracks all coming from Stupid Dream. We're quite far away here from Porcupine Tree's space rock roots, as a result, and more in the realm of the heavy prog music that they made the focus of their work for the 2000s, with touches of the indie rock-influenced prog of their late 1990s era adding an extra dose of variety here and there. It might not offer a whole lot that In Absentia and Stupid Dream didn't already offer, but when you are dealing with albums that are as good as those two, "more of the same" doesn't sound half bad.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Listening diary 21st January, 2021: Porcupine Tree - XM (progressive rock, 2003) Of all the (far too many) live albums Porcupine Tree did (and are still doing, thanks to their new bandcamp), this is probably one of the most pointless. It's not even a live album, but a live-in-studio performance ... (read more)

Report this review (#2595428) | Posted by Gallifrey | Sunday, September 19, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars NICE ALBUM!!! Porcupine Tree strikes with an unexpected live album, (not that unespected, since XM live was released shortly before) but all i can say here is that they played the songs to PERFECTION, if they were to do better they would needed an orchestra or something... the BAD stuff now, u ... (read more)

Report this review (#22154) | Posted by Gabrielpenteado | Saturday, April 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Porcupine Tree took their XM Radio session and stuck it on CD & decided to sell 1500 copies at shows and on their website. They sold like hotcakes, so they pressed another 1000 copies. They sold out too. Now the CD is going for sums in the region of 100 on auction sites around the world. So w ... (read more)

Report this review (#22151) | Posted by | Sunday, May 9, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This live compilation is simply excellent. Porcupine XM would have been even greater if it had had Russia On Ice in its finely-woven set of songs. But there is no doubt that XM will make you crawl with praise for Steven Wilson and the band after a few listenings. Although i wish it lacked Russia tra ... (read more)

Report this review (#22150) | Posted by | Sunday, April 11, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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