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Porcupine Tree - The Sky Moves Sideways CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

4.06 | 1288 ratings

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3 stars 20 Years On: Porcupine Tree's The Sky Moves Sideways

The Sky Moves Sideways, like so many albums in the atmospheric art-prog umbrella, suffers so hard by being filled to the brim with absolutely unnecessary filler. There's about 16 minutes of solid, well-written early Porcupine Tree material here, the rest is just nonsense. And I'm not even including the snoozefest that is "Moonloop" (because on my edition of the album that one's on the bonus disk), a 'song' that takes Wilson's self-indulgent Floydian noodling to near nauseating extremes. There's so much here that just feels like Wilson trying to get as little material into a studio album as possible, because let's face it, what we have here is three songs, and about half an hour of low-effort nonsense.

The title track, or at least the part of it that's actually a song, is pretty fantastic. In fact, if "Phase One" got cut off at around the 8-minute mark and the second half was thrown immediately in the garbage, I would call it one of Wilson's best 90's tracks. Sure, the intro is very Pink Floyd, but in a good way, like the best long-winded Gilmour tracks. The vocal melodies are truly iconic. Simple, memorable, and to the point, this could have easily gone down in history as the first moment Porcupine Tree made something timeless. But we all know what happens next. The fact that there are people who actually call Phase One one of PT's best songs just makes me so confused. Are they just ignoring the 6-minute disco synth solo? It's honestly one of the corniest and least inspired things I've heard from Wilson, even inexperienced 90's Wilson. Taking the worst parts of 80's synth music, and mixing it with the worst parts of 70's space rock excess is one of the worst ideas I have ever heard, and it continues on for six whole minutes after what would have been PT's best song at the time. And thus begins the filler problem of The Sky Moves Sideways, which is something that all the early Porcupine Tree records seem to have trouble with, but I really feel this is the worst.

There is still good stuff here. In fact, there's some really good stuff here. "Dislocated Day" is the necessary break the album needed after the psychedelic ambience of the opener, and in the remastered edition with Gavin Harrison on drums, even sounds a bit like the songs PT would come up with in their metal era. It's punchy and quick, but doesn't lose the atmospheric ambience that this entire album carries. It's not an amazing song by any distance, but in the context of the album it's a necessary shift. "The Moon Touches Your Shoulder" is much better, and is the best overall song on the album, although falls short of the first half of Phase One, if we count that. It's a similar style of song to that first half, being Floydian and acoustic-driven and melancholic, but fortunately there's no disco synth solo and it ends within a reasonable time.

But then there's the rest. Firstly, "Prepare Yourself", a pointless little two-minute ambient piece, and then Phase Two, which is a pointless very very long 17-minute piece of utter garbage. It's no worse than any other Wilson ambient/psych tracks, but it's just so utterly unnecessary and self-indulgent. The first 10 minutes goes for a similar jaunt to the disco synth solo in Phase One, but with a bit more restraint and a bit less cheese, which then resolves into a very very Gilmour-esque solo over the same chord progression as the opener. I personally wouldn't mind if about five or six minutes of this were used to bookend the album, like an enormous thematic reprise, but 17 minutes of nonsense is just not on.

The Sky Moves Sideways is an album with three songs, all of which contain pretty basic chord progressions and melodies, and would have taken Steven about a week to write. The rest of the album (about 30 minutes, or 47 minutes if you include Moonloop) is filler of the most obvious kind - meandering psychedelic nonsense. This album is probably worth hearing for most people given that it has a couple of quality songs, but three songs on a studio album of this length is just weak. Not bad on the whole, but doesn't deserve any praise as a classic album in my opinion.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Gallifrey | 3/5 |


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