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Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.02 | 1523 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars 4.25 stars

What is it? A continuation of the pop sensibilities and melancholic rock explored in preceding album. Lightbulb Sun revisits experimentation and expansive song structures from earlier albums but with the much-developed songwriting skills. This takes place during the latter half of the album (and the masterpiece 'Buying New Soul' that was sadly left out).

Voice (4 stars) ?Steven Wilson keeps his restrained approach and staying within his comfortable range. He continues emphasizing melody and personal character, with lyrics becoming increasingly personal. The technique of harmonizing himself with multiple tracks is explored much further. This technique is used to merge two distinct singing styles (Lightbulb Sun), add weight to a particular melody (most songs, with 'Shesmovedon' being noteworthy), add a symphonic element (Russia on Ice), or introducing vocal counterpoint (How is Your Life Today) which will be explored in later albums.

Sound (4.5 stars) ? Lush sound quality continues, with a slight preference over more direct instrumentation that enhance the organic sound of the record. Sound production wise, this is another achievement in discography that borders on perfection. The variety of instruments has increased, with string instruments, banjo, dulcimers, harp, mellotron, and other instruments mostly played by Steven himself. This variety is particularly showcased in the spectacular 'Last Chance to Evacuate' composition and the epic, expansive 'Russia on Ice'. What's most important is that the band chemistry is still intact when it comes to traditional rock instruments, providing extremely tight rock arrangements (see 'Lightbulb Sun', latter half of 'Hatesong'). One misstep is the guitar playing in 'Four Chords' and the very conventional rock in 'Shesmovedon' that does not reach epic status, no matter how many minutes of guitar soloing Steven Wilson adds to it.

Song (4.25 stars) ?Pop music works best when it is personal or has a musical statement to make in a relatively quick fashion, depending on a foundation of melody. This album continues the exploration of pop music, if limited to half the songs. The pop rock attempts often succeeds just as well as in 'Stupid Dream', with the added benefit of originality, as it is hard to identify blatant musical references for the first time in their career. There are however a few missteps. The parody 'Four Chords that Made a Million' combines purposely moronic riffs and vocal lines with competent genre-blending instrumentation, resulting in unpleasant dissonance. 'Shesmovedon' suffers from rudimentary songwriting and has a supposed emotional catharsis in the second half that does not reach me emotionally, probably because of the tonal whiplash from the catchy, peppy choruses.

The album does explore new ground when revisiting the experimental and expansive nature of earlier albums, but applying it to modern rock music as opposed to psychedelic space rock. 'Hate Song' starts a bit traditional, but introduces prog rock polyrhythms and heavy metal halfway through. 'Russia on Ice' has a slow burning structure and symphonic rock styling, patiently ebbing and flowing with internalized anger until it reaches a very loud, aggressive, and dissonant instrumental section that borrows from prog rock, avant garde, and heavy metal.

The most successful of these experimental songs is the absolute masterpiece 'Last Chance to Evacuate' which draws you into a false sense of security with a joyful, inviting sound and then you find yourself surrounded by the brainwashed 'Heaven's Gate' cult happily ending their life as they listen to the lunatic ravings of their leader. The tonal dissonance of the disturbing speech and the uplifting music cannot be any more perfect.

Key Tracks: Lightbulb Sun, Last Chance to Evacuate, Hatesong, Russia on Ice

Zitro | 4/5 |


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