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Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream CD (album) cover

STUPID DREAM

Porcupine Tree

 

Heavy Prog

3.99 | 1305 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TCat
4 stars This was the first Porcupine Tree album that was done over a shorter amount of time, or in specific sessions. All of the other PT albums up to this point had been done over periods of time and collected to put together an album. As a result, this album is definitely more focused and perfected, as the songs were all worked out and concentrated on until they were album-ready.

The budget for this album was also much larger than in the past, thus allowing them to spend the time in the studio to concentrate on the songs. With this budget, an orchestra was also brought in to give the album a richer, fuller sound. This was also a transitional album, even though some transition was seen in "Signify", this album confirms the transition away from psychedelic/spacey improvised works to more concise music which would be more accessible and would concentrate more on the songwriting skills of Steven Wilson but also on his instrumentation skills to keep things interesting.

So, listeners are going to notice a difference in this album compared to prior albums. I think PT did an excellent job of bringing together the changes and still making them sound like they weren't selling out to music corporation pressure. The idea behind this album is that people should think about their "Stupid Dream" of becoming a professional rock musician, because the glitz and glamour comes at a high price. The music you have to write and the fact that you bare your soul to the public in your music is very important and making your music personal is what music should be about. However, the price you pay for doing this is knowing that your music is going to end up on an "assembly line" and become a product. Also, you spend the rest of the time promoting and selling your music. All of this takes the personal aspect of the music away. Even though this is not a pleasant thought or task, it is a necessity and that is the hard and unpleasant work that comes with the job. Hence the art work of CDs being processed in a factory or industrial type setting.

The music here is excellent. Most of the songs deal with personalities with different eccentrics. Though it is not as well developed as it would become on the amazing albums "In Absentia", "Deadwing" and "Fear of a Blank Planet", it is still excellent. I don't want to go through track by track but I want to talk about the highlights a bit. The album opens up with "Even Less" which originally was a 14+ minute song (which is available on other recordings) that was pared down to 7+ minutes. Even cut down, this is an excellent song and introduces you to the new sound which promises you quality music which can be thoughtful at times and exciting at others. This one focuses on louder guitars. This is followed up by another excellent song "Piano Lessons" which has an excellent hook and a hard driving beat and is finished up with a wonderful guitar solo.

"Slave Called Shiver" and "Don't Hate Me" are actually songs about similar subjects. They both deal with characters that are obsessed with someone else, with the first one being more uptempo and the 2nd a more thoughtful slower tempo. "Don't Hate Me" sounds like the person is pleading with the subject of his obsession to accept him even though he has called her on the telephone and possibly stalked her but he raises her to a level far above himself. There is a nice saxophone solo here that sounds totally relevant. Excellent song and also the longest on the album.

"Baby Dream in Cellophane" is a moody beautiful song where the character is a baby thinking about whether he or she should accept the role that society is going to give to it. Genius. "Stranger by the Minute" is a wonderful song with the first instance of the beautiful signature harmonics we would hear a lot more of from PT in the future. Inspired by CSN&Y's harmonics as Steven Wilson admits he was listening to a lot of their music at the time (along with Soundgarden, Jeff Buckley, Todd Rundgren and Brian Wilson....now listen to the album and you can hear the influences). "A Smart Kid" is sung by a kid that is either a survivor of an apocalypse, though I think it is more in his imagination, that he is talking to an alien race pleading for them to "take him in". Maybe he is wishing in his mind that he would be better accepted in their society where they would understand him better. I love the processed vocals here that make it sound like the main character is alone in the universe and speaking inside his head, hence the idea that it is in his imagination.

"Tinto Brass" is named after an Italian movie director and the voice is Steven Wilson's girlfriend simply reading in Japanese a list of his movies. I bet you thought it was something more adventurous than that, but sometimes imagination is better than reality. Anyway, this is a hard driving instrumental that will get your heart racing. I love the way the song is mixed so that all of the instruments are heard equally even when the great flute solo and guitar solos come along, that they are not spotlighted so much as to drown out the excellent bass line and keyboards that are added to back up the solos. This way you can hear so much more of what's going on. The last track is one of Stephen Wilson's favorites. "Stop Swimming" is about the thought that we all have that we should stop swimming against the tide and just flow along with the current. This idea is not being promoted in the song though and Wilson said that you would never have to worry about him doing that which is why this is such a sad song since it is so tempting for us all to do this. But don't do it. Be yourself!

Anyway, you can hear the changes the band was going through and the approach to the masterpieces that were to come soon. I love this album, but it is not as good as what was to come. It is an excellent addition to your prog library and an important album for PT fans. 4 stars.

TCat | 4/5 |

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