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Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.02 | 1523 ratings

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4 stars It's my belief that our reactions to works of art are frequently coloured by the personal associations and experiences that we bring to them. The superb LIGHTBULB SUN, a 2000 release from England's Porcupine Tree, is a case in point: The opening title track, sung by vocalist Steven Wilson from the perspective of an ailing child who hears his friends playing outside while he is confined to his bed, immediately struck a chord with me, and brought tears to my eyes -- I was often in that unenviable predicament myself (due to severe childhood asthma) as a boy: "The sun is a lightbulb, the candle's a treat, and the curtains stay closed now, on my little retreat.... but after a while, the noise from the street, is making me wish I was back on my feet." I really love this sadly beautiful (and often hard-rocking) song!

The rest of this magnificent disc is every bit as good (if less personally moving), and the band have their own sound. This is my first Porcupine Tree CD, but it seems to be the work of a seasoned group who are comfortable in their own identity, with no absolutely blatant progenitors -- a most welcome trait in a newer act! The overall sound is hard to classify -- the songs often tend toward the heavier end of the progressive spectrum, but there are ample moments of soft, sensitive, and intelligent beauty as well. Besides the aforementioned opener, I especially appreciate "How is Your Life Today," with its "haunted fairground" keyboards, and Yes-like vocal harmonies. "She's Moved On" (see the MP3 here) is a moody portrait of lost love and regret, and "Last Chance to Exit Planet Earth," with its L. Ron Hubbard-like voiceover, is an effective science-fictional number which posits that we are due to return "from whence we came." Replete with strings, "The Rest Will Flow" is a very pretty and impeccably-arranged offering that is reminiscent of XTC's fabulous SKYLARKING, while the nostalgic "Where We Would Be" has strumming acoustic guitar and some great lead from multi-instrumentalist Wilson. The thirteen-minute epic "Russia on Ice" proffers a dark, ominous and powerful depiction of the self-destructive tendencies that can push those who would love us away: "Can't stop myself drinking -- can't stop being me. If I call, will you come, and will you save me?... You said you hate me this way -- it's just a matter of time." The final section of the song gets particularly heavy (this track should not disappoint fans of "progressive metal" bands such as Dream Theater), before fading out to church bells and spacey keyboard "atmospherics." Finally, the closing track, with heart-tugging cello and string sounds, masterfully encapsulates modern isolation and the all-too-common failure to make meaningful, lasting human connections: "I was waiting for your email, and each day that you forgot to call just made me feel so low.... I tried to call, I just couldn't wait; and your message was out of date. So I left my voice on your machine, but you did not respond. Okay, okay -- you've won. You make me feel so low, so low."

Overall then, LIGHTBULB SUN is the best offering I've heard yet from any of the newer "progressive" bands. Masterful and moving, this terrific CD is very highly recommended! I plan to check out IN ABSENTIA and SIGNIFY next!

Peter | 4/5 |


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