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Porcupine Tree - On the Sunday of Life... CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.04 | 973 ratings

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4 stars

That 'Message of A Self Destructing Turnip' may well have been: 'This Is The Start of Something Beautiful'

Somewhere around the 1990's there was this 'buzz' going on around in the underground psychedelic/space rock scene in the UK about an obscure 1960-1970's band, full of Syd Barrett-influences, of which two tapes had finally been recovered (rescued?) from oblivion - "Tarquin's Seaweed Farm" and "The Nostalgia Factory". The name of that illusive 'band'? Porcupine Tree.

Of course the entire story was total BUNK, made up by the creator of the tapes, a shy young computer engineer spending his entire spare time putting together 'soundscapes' in his own basement using a various bunch of keyboards, computers, tape-loops, guitars, and his own (at times distorted) voice, recorded on rather crappy track tape-machinery. Mr. Steven Wilson, a self-declared loather of any 'commercialism' and 'selling' of the art of music, hilariously managed to come up with one of the most successful Marketing Stories ever, as the tapes immediately landed him a contract with Delirium Records, as well as exposure by BBC Radio. The Remainder of the Story is History, so to say.

"On The Sunday of Life" is, most of all, the first genuine solo-effort by Wilson (I can't help but smile at his claiming that his 2009-release "Insurgentes" was his first), aided by a couple of fellows (to which he, in a very tongue-in-cheeky-British way, refers as "not entirely blameless" on the credits listing), most important of them being lyricist Alan Duffy, who's responsible for the vast majority of the spacey, at times making-no-sense-at-all, but nevertheless very enjoyable song texts.

So, what do we get, here. In short, a youthful kaleidoscope collection of all the kind of styles that young Mr. Wilson had been experimenting with - and still does, up to the date of today in his various outfits - musically, emphasizing on space/psychedelics in the verge of, for instance, bands like Steve Hillage's Gong or Ozric Tentacles, among with quite a lot of stuff which you will either love or hate - call it 'campy silliness'.

Perfect examples of the latter category are "Jupiter Island" and "Linton Samuel Dawson", which combine LSD-inspired, Barrett-esque vocals (Wilson-on-Helium?) on relatively short songs with an upbeat, trippy dance rhythm supplied by a drum computer. I kid you not - you can even DANCE to these songs (and personally I don't mind that at all). There's also the lovely, gentle, basically acoustic guitar-based ballad "Nine Cats" which I think is just awesome, a highlight on this album, along with the equally lovely 'epic' "The Nostalgia Factory". Should any person have ever doubted Wilson's very fine nose for beautiful melodies, these songs should really get him/her cured from that opinion instantly.

Fortunately, however, this debut also shows vast initial signs of the style where PT would end up with some 25 years later - in total: dark, scary, gothic-like BEAUTY.

"Space Transmission" forms the introduction of this sequence of songs - a dark, ambient track with Wilson narrating the story of an entity stuck on some faraway planet "..ever since the Sun exploded 14 centuries ago.." but of course, "I'll seek my revenge!" Space-is-indeed-Deep on that one, which even reminds me of certain parts of Rush's "Hemispheres" in texture and sounds. After the following "Message of A Self Destructing Turnip", a very short (5 seconds, to be exact) ambient intermission piece with some extensive drumming, we finally get to hear the absolute highlight of this album - the majestic PT-classic "Radioactive Toy".

"..Give me the freedom to destroy, give me Radioactive Toy.." is haunting, mesmerizing, and right-out creepy - but friggin' beautiful. The subdued vocal performance by Wilson (you can actually feel both the first persona's cold-hearted radicalism, as well as this desperation, in his delivery of the text - at least I do so!), along with the psychedelic, trippy intermissions, combined with Wilson's outbursts on the guitar (that wah wah -pedal!), make this song into a genuine masterpiece. Yeah, let's indeed Leave Planet Earth Before It Gets Recycled, as Wilson would proclaim some 20 years later on. BTW, further considering the 'darkness' that these songs emanate, I think it's no coincidence that Mr. Wilson's texts on these songs are indeed his own, in stead of Duffy's.

"Radioactive Toy" has stood up to the test of time amazingly well, quite incredible that this fantastic song was in fact composed by a mere 15-year-old. WOT-THE-HELL. I try to avoid labeling any musician as a 'genius' as much as I can, just to avoid the Fanboy-Tag, but Mr. Wilson comes pretty close to it, I daresay nonetheless.

The follow-up "Footprints" brings us back to Alan Duffy's erratic dopey lyricism, but fortunately, also to another hint towards Future PT - Wilson's fantastic ability to combine very soft, diminutive, acoustic sequences with massive, heavy outbursts, reflected in his ecstatic manner of singing, combined a bucket of echoing keyboards. "And The Swallows Dance Above The Sun" is another semi-dark epic based on a straightforward, trippy, simple computer rhythm. "This Long Silence" comes in the same atmosphere, pretty nice work on the bass guitar by Wilson here, even if it's a simple sequence - me likes it. "It Will Rain For A Million Years" is quite worth your time listening to it too, another spacey track with a lot of ambient sequences, but OH WOW - Space-Continues-To-Be-DEEP here, with young Mr. Wilson emulating one Mr. D. Gilmour on the guitar, and not too shabby either, in doing so. I rather like the bass line of this track too. Very muddy, strongly present in the mix, and since I am a Bass Guitar-kind of person, I'm not complaining about that at all.

As for the production work on this re-issue - mine's the 2004 Snapper edition - I can't say else than that it's pretty good, as is always the case with any product of Mr. Wilson's. As I myself became a Resident of Planet Porcupine Tree somewhere around 1997 or such, I have no idea how much it actually benefited from remastering from the original tapes, as unfortunately, I don't own them so I can't compare.

To conclude this way-too-long review (sorry about that, folks!): this is a true 'Love-It-Or- Hate-It'-album, and it's kind of obvious in which category I belong myself. The campy, silly, spacey stuff exposed on this album might well piss off some of the more closed-minded kind of fans, but I'd really like to invite all of the latter day PT-fans to at least give it a try to explore some of Mr. Wilson's early signs of his genius. "Radioactive Toy", especially, is a song no proper PT-fan can afford him/herself to miss out on.

How I'd wish PT to one day perform silly stuff like "Jupiter Island" live again, if only to witness the stunned faces of that part of the crowd that only got to know Mr. Wilson & His Arboretic Porc after "Fear of A Blank Planet". I might well end up Dying Laughing, but that's part of the risk! :-)

My personal verdict: 4 stars, as I can't help but love both the 'serious' stuff on this album, as well as the trippy, campy material. The verdict for latter-day PT-fans with a more Heavy Metal-inclined taste, and who aren't all too keen on Space Rock: 3 stars. Make it 3- and-a-half, then!

Antennas | 4/5 |


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