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Porcupine Tree - Deadwing CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.11 | 1954 ratings

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4 stars Porcupine Tree's latest album is the sound of a band who have already arrived where they want to be, and seem content to just coast along. Steven Wilson established their own distinctive voice with "Stupid Dream" and "Lightbulb Sun", consolidating that with the sparkling songwriting and metal influences of "In Absentia". With this one it just looked like they rushed straight back into the studio to tread comfortable old ground.

There's still plenty of stuff to please old and new listeners. The title track doesn't have much to fault it. Its perpetual motion two-chord riff, thumping repetitive drumbeat and rousing string swells are an arresting opening to the album. It's typical of neo-prog but sounds natural and uncontrived. Even the raucously atonal guitar solo from King Crimson's Adrian Belew grew on me. Just as focused and powerful is "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here", again based on an absorbing perpetual motion riff, stretched out in symphonic style. There's a clear thread running towards this track from their "Signify" album ten years ago, and there are also recollections of Lightbulb Sun's "Russia on Ice", especially in its chilling vocal. "The Start of Something Beautiful" also mingles hard riffing and symphonic swells in a pleasing, if a little too familiar, way.

A peppering of short singles show that Wilson's metal-head is still shining. "Shallow" and "Halo" are hard-riffing modern pop-metal, in the same mould as the metal tracks from "In Absentia" but even more straight ahead. (geeky aside, did he know there was an old Cocteau Twins song called "Shallow then Halo"?). "Shallow" might win them fans in the American market, and in Britain, Muse fans should perk up their ears at this side of the band. At the other end of the scale, "Lazarus" is the softest pop song they have ever done, but still distinctively Porcupine Tree. It's not too far fetched to compare its melody to a Robbie Williams ballad, and its flighty one-handed piano line is like a looser version of Coldplay's "Clocks".

While their previous two were pretty much songwriting-perfect, "Deadwing" seems to sag towards the end. It's an example of the way artists sometimes insist on shoving all the album's best songs at the start. I don't think it's an inevitable consequence of listening for an hour, they really have put the weaker material on the second half. "Mellotron Scratch" is redeemed by its layered closing section based on that pretty dulcimer sound. "Glass Arm Shattering" is an anticlimax, presumably intended to be mellow and spacious but just sounding floppy and lackluster.

"Deadwing" is listenable, but we've become too accustomed to the signatures of Wilson's admittedly finely-crafted prog pop. Those slick vocal harmonies, and those spicy splashes of piano and guitar, once captured the ears with their fresh sound. New fans might find it a nice taste, from where they can start exploring Porcupine Tree backwards through time, but this long time listener yearns for something more innovative.

Open-Mind | 4/5 |


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