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Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.99 | 1387 ratings

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The Rain Man
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Released in 1999, 'Stupid Dream' was Porcupine Tree's 5th studio album. Having already established themselves as prog gods within small circles of the prog community through albums such as 'Sky moves Sideways' and 'Voyage 34'. 'Stupid Dream' may have been perceived as a back-step in terms of progression as this was easily their most accessible album to date, at that time. Delivering a mix of upbeat pop with long dark prog songs; this change of direction far from compromised the quality of output. Instead from going to the complex to the relatively more simple style of songs, they make the simple even better without forgetting their progressive roots.

This album is one of those landmark albums in my life; One which I will never forget. It was a Saturday night in April '99 when my Dad spent the afternoon shopping for CD's in 'Lost in Music' in the West End of Glasgow. It was one of those moments where he heard something in the shop and had to find out who it was was Porcupine Tree's latest album - 'Stupid Dream'. He got chatting to the guy in the shop and found that they were playing in the Cottier Theatre that night which is also in the West End of Glasgow, which really excited him. However he also had a committee night out that night which he was desperate to get out of, but at the same time had no-one to go to the gig with. So he asked me. At first I was reluctant, but eventually he twisted my arm. That gig to this day, is in my top 5 gigs of all time. In turn 'Stupid Dream' is still one of my favourite albums. This album not only got me into Porcupine Tree, but also acted as the gateway for getting into more progressive rock music.

Looking back I can see why this album made such a big impact on me. Before I came across Porcupine Tree I was really into my Indie/rock music such as Ocean Colour Scene, Radiohead and The Bluetones. On 'Stupid Dream', some of the songs do have an indie sound such as 'Pure Narcotic' and 'Piano Lessons. While there is also the longer efforts which venture more into prog rock territory. Therefore I feel this album acts as a ferry boat, shipping people from mainland indie/rock over to Prog Rock Island.

The album itself kicks off with 'Even Less' which is one of the darker, more progressive songs on the album. Right from the opening vocals, "A body is washed up on a Norfolk beach, he was a friend but I could not reach." It was apparent that this is just the start of what I consider to be the best lyrics to any album I have ever listened to. Another example from this song, which is one of my personal favourites: 'Some of us are left to fend for ourselves; others are born to stack shelves." Then there's a killer riff that adds such intensity and passion to the song. As the song is quite mellow until this riff kicks in just after the chorus. It is as if a volcano's erupted every time it comes on.

After this song, the rest of the album is predominantly set on the more mellow side. Some of the songs have such a warm and uplifting feeling to them that every time I listen to these songs I give off a sigh, as it is so relaxing. In particular, 'Pure Narcotic', where piano, acoustic guitar and light drumming are used to create a majestic melody. Again Wilson is on fine lyrical form with: 'You keep me hating; you keep me listening to the bends'. Now I may be bias because "The Bends" is my favourite Radiohead album, but all the same a genius lyric. I do find this song a bit weird because the lyrics are quite depressing but the joyous melody acts as a kind of counter-balance creating equilibrium. All the same a wonderful song and one which many artists during the 90s were attempting to make but never really achieved the same standard as this attempt.

One of the biggest shocks of the album came when I first listened to 'Piano lessons' and to my surprise it was a piano driven song! Seriously though, this is excellent. The core of the song focuses around a fantastic piano riff which creates a magically chirpy atmosphere. Once again Wilson's lyrical display is on fine form with:

I remember piano lessons The hours in freezing rooms Cruel ears and tiny hands Destroying timeless tunes

I like the last line especially as its one of those statements which someone makes and the only real response you can give 99% of the time is "It's so true!" I think what lyric shows along with many others, is that Wilson uses his lyrics to get across his thoughts and ideas on the world. To me he comes across as being not only a gifted songwriter and musician but also an extremely intelligent human being who thinks before he speaks.

Overall this is an incredible album; firmly cementing its place in my top ten albums of all time. Having owned the album for eight years now, there is still not a single track which I am fed up with yet. The song writing is on a different planet, the melodies are refreshingly enriching and Porcupine Tree in my opinion touched greatness with this effort. I have to say, prog still comes second to indie/rock music in terms of preference. But any time I do want to go on a holiday to Prog Island, I always take the 'Stupid Dream' ferry boat and I recommend you do the same! Who knows I may end up living there some day..

The Rain Man | 5/5 |


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