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


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.04 | 974 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars This young man shows promise!

"On the Sunday of life" is where it all began for Porcupine Tree, who started out as a side project of Steve Wilson's from his work with No Man (yes, No Man actually came first). Those who have come to know the band through their more recent releases such as "Stupid Dream" and "In absentia", (and even those whose came across them around the time of "Coma devine" or "The sky moved sideways") should approach this album with a measure of caution. The band (this is in reality a solo album) were very much in their infancy at this time, still looking for a solid direction and experimenting with various styles and sounds. With the benefit of hindsight, "On the Sunday of life" can initially be seen as being too diverse, and lacking in any sort of focus.

Originally consisting of two separate cassettes ("Tarquin's Seaweed Farm" and "The Nostalgia Factory"), the album was brought together as a single piece for CD release. Some of the compositions, such as "Footprints" and "Jupiter Island", stem from Wilson's adolescent days. Unlike subsequent albums, on a number of songs, Wilson is not the main lyric writer here; that responsibility being assumed by his teenage friend Alan Duffy. Consequently, there are many abstract and impenetrable (drug influenced?) lyrics. While Wilson himself would make many overt references to drugs on later albums, he has subsequently indicated that he was not always comfortable setting lyrics written by a third party to music which he was composing, especially when he was not actually collaborating with the lyricist.

Most of these tracks went from conception to finished product in a very short space of time, written and recorded in Wilson's home studio without any post-production or convoluted arrangements. Even when the "best" tracks from the two source cassettes were brought together to form this album, the intention was not to create something for the mass market. It is only through the inquisitiveness of fans of the band that this has become a widely available album at all.

With the foregoing in mind, we should perhaps not expect too much from this debut, and that is certainly the best way to approach it. Here we have no less than 18 tracks running to over 75 minutes. It is advisable to keep the remote control handy when playing the album, to facilitate skipping over the dodgiest pieces.

The opening instrumental "Music for the head" is actually strongly indicative of the ambient, spacey, psychedelic influences which would adorn the succeeding albums. It is one of a number of such instrumentals. The title track (originally called "Clarinet Vignette/Nun's cleavage(right)") is particularly notable for the inclusion of oboe prior to the piece completely degenerating. "Jupiter island" on the other hand is firmly rooted in the sounds of the 60's, Wilson's vocals being decidedly Marc Bolan like. The Floydian instrumental backing is pure Barrett, with suitably floating sounds. Considering the severe limitations of the source medium, the sound on this track, and indeed on the album as a whole (I have the 2004 Snapper remaster) is wonderfully crisp and clear. "The nostalgia factory" continues the Barrett era style, Wilson's vocals sounding distinctly influenced by helium.

The feature track is undoubtedly "Radioactive toy", a song which would go on to become a live favourite and a highlight on the "Coma divine" album. There is no doubt this is the closest we come to trademarks of the band we now know as Porcupine Tree, including distorted vocals, a heavy rhythm and incisive guitar. This was the only track Wilson completely re-recorded for the album.

"Nine cats" continues to emphasise the eclectic nature of the album, being initially a soft, reflective piece with delicate vocals. As the track develops, the guitar subtly loudens to an abrupt conclusion. "Footprints" has suggestions of the dramatic structure which distinguished the much later "This is no rehearsal", with quiet verses alternating with suddenly loud choruses.

Tracks such as "Linton Samuel Davidson" and "And the swallows dance above the sun" continue to absorb the early Floyd influences while providing tantalising glimpses of the path the band would follow. "No luck with rabbits" is one of the tracks where the experimentation goes into overdrive, the entire piece consisting of distortions of recordings of a musical box.

"The long silence" is another track which offers a good indication of what is to follow, the piece sounding genuinely impressive as a result of the remastering. The album closes with a final nod to pink Floyd, but this time their Gilmour era, the 10 minute "It will rain for a million years" featuring some fine lead guitar work supported by a heavy rhythm.

In all, while "On the Sunday of life" lacks the focus and clear cut character of its successors, that is the paradoxically the album's strength. The diversity of the music and styles here can be disconcerting, but those who persist will be rewarded with a veritable wealth of sounds created by an enthusiastic young man with an exceedingly bright future.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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