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Porcupine Tree - Signify CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.85 | 1364 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars To a certain extent, I would call myself a PORCUPINE TREE fan- but not on the basis of "Signify". Quite honestly, I prefer the more song-oriented 'alternative' influences of "Lightbulb Sun"; this album has a more bland 'wall-of-sound' approach that I tend to associate with the lackluster 80s progressive scene. The title track is a good example; it tries to be heavy but the plastic guitar tone and simplistic riff reminds me of an amateur's attempt at metal, and the synth pads and effects seem almost like an afterthought.

"Sleep of No Dreaming" is a bit better, with a lush desperation in the chorus and a quiet eerieness in the verses. The guitar tone is still uninspiring, though- the musicians out there will understand when I say that it sounds like he ran it through a cheap distortion pedal directly into the mixer (I've heard MARILLION's Steve Rothery sound much like this from time to time). "Waiting (Phase One)" is much better, well-written and performed, sounding like a mix of Gilmour-heavy FLOYD and some of THE CHURCH's more guitar-based work.

"Waiting (Phase Two)" is more formless and ambient, with some interesting sounds; unfortunately, the band's strength is not in improvisation- neither the guitar nor the drums inspire much involvement in the crescendos of the piece. "Sever" has similar drum problems- whether human or programmed, these drums have no feel. The best thing I can say about the song is that it reminds me of the cold heaviness that RUSH explored in "Signals" and "Grace Under Pressure". The next track, "Idiot Prayer", continues and even deepens the trend of programmed sounds padded with ambient soundbytes, but the guitar is occasionally effective. Perhaps he's trying to work with industrial influences, but it ends up sounding more like Jan Hammer's "Miami Vice" theme than (for instance) THRILL KILL KULT. "Every Home is Wired" makes some interesting (but flawed) observations about technology, and has a nice acoustic least until the drums get going. "Intermediate Jesus" is seven minutes of aimless and uninspired jamming, without anything but a religious soundbyte to distinguish it- let's face it, by the end of the 80s songs like FRONT 242's "Welcome to Paradise" and THRILL KILL KULT's "Kooler than Jesus" had the same idea, with more interesting results. "Light Mass Prayer" is over already? I was still waiting for something to segues nicely into "Dark Matter", but this song concludes the album with another flaccid wall of sound.

As other reviewes have noted, PORCUPINE TREE gets progressive in reverse- each previous album shows more progressive influence. In that way, they seem more like one of the bands that started promisingly adventurous and ended up, for better or worse, more broadly accessible (classic rock fans can find parallels in bands like Chicago and Journey). Unfortunately, "Signify" only resembles progressive rock due to the immense padding; decent ideas are rendered impotent with clumsy lyrics and needless extended soundscapes, both of which lack much originality or depth. Post-punk pioneer Richard Barbieri must have been saving his experience and creativity for other venues. This is the sound of a little talent, a personal vision, and the convenience of modern personal recording technology; long beforehand, Frank Zappa indulged similarly misguided whims with his Synclavier-based home studio, and his talent and creativity was of a much higher league. Mr. Wilson might have been better off working within a band- even David Gilmour needed the rest of FLOYD to bring out his best.

James Lee | 2/5 |


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