Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Snapper Music
Catalog Number: SMACD827
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:49:00

Much of Tree's Porcupine Tree's Lightbulb Sun is understated, one exception being "4 Chords That Made A Million." The feel of this track and the way Wilson sings reminds me of parts of Marillion's "This Strange Engine," more towards the end of that track. Coincidence I think, as Wilson didn't get involved with Marillion (at least not credited for having done so) until marillion.com. Now, when I say understated the most understated track here is "Where Would We Be." This is a 70s soft rock number where Wilson and company (Richard Barbieri, Chris Maitland, and Corwin Edwin) sound uncannily like Bread, a 70s soft rock band who had many hits (at least in the US) such as "Make It With You," "If" and "Everything I Own." Porcupine Tree's "Where?" is a mishmash of all those tracks, not sounding like any one song in particular. Though I think it is closer to "Everything?" than anything else, and not just because of the dreamy vocals from Wilson (lead) and Maitland (harmony) or the acoustic guitar (also Wilson), but all those things together. If you recall another 70s soft-rock band, America, then you'll have one element of "How Is Your Life Today?," another being that Wilson sounds more like Paul McCartney.

The band return to the 90's with the first single that was released from the album, the rockier "4 Chords That Made A Million," which begins with rhythmic bongos-like percussion that provides the somewhat frenetic backing. Porcupine Tree deliberately adopting an Euro-pop like sound (Oasis, for example), to underscore the positively spun cynicism. The dreamy bridge here is almost otherworldly, with synths and treated vocals swirling around prettily. As expected, this is quite catchy -- it'd be ironic if it made the band a million. "Shesmovedon" the other single released from this album also has swirly keys, but much less smoothly, as these have a rough feel to them (I'm thinking of a stippled surface). The voices are quite warm for the harmonized chorus, Wilson's ethereal vocals floating off to the side, echoed and treated (and harking back to 1999's Stupid Dream. Wilson's guitar solo is bordering on the psychedelic, and yet such a classic modern prog-like solo.

The longest track is the 13-plus minute "Russia On Ice," about a quarter of the album. This starts with some very quiet keys from Barbieri, guitar and bass accents, and lots of atmosphere. But when it starts to kick in (though still were at a very slow tempo) you can't but help but think of the dark, thick tones on Pink Floyd's The Wall. Wilson's Gilmour-esque guitar is the lighter side of melancholy where his vocals are the dark side. But his solos are dripping with emotion as well, and as much as they contrast with his vocals, they are in stark contrast to Edwin's throaty bass lines. And when the harmonized bridge comes in, you can't help but think, "Hmm-mmm. Floyd." After an instrumental passage where Wilson's guitar gets a little raw, we transition into a very funky section, bordering on avant-garde. Hear it and you'll know what I mean ? King Crimson plays funk, I guess. The intensity just keeps growing, the tension tightening, percussion crashing all about, guitar grinding ? and then just the sound of church bells tolling (ominous, no?) ? and suddenly you realize that 12 minutes have passed while you've been caught up in this whirlwind of sound and emotion. The song ends with atmospheres and effects - the credits mention insects.

Some other tracks that I'd like to mention, not necessarily in running order: "The Rest Will Flow" would be a typical mid-tempo rocker that would sit comfortably next to any "modern rock" band, but PT take it a level higher, with a string section and slowly building intensity. In fact, I think it is one of the finest songs on the album. "Hatesong" has a slow funky beat, and a certain detachment underscored by the synthesized percussion from the fingers of Richard Barbieri and the drum machines from Colin Edwin. Harsh, sharp guitar leads cut through the synths (also Barbieri) and the driving percussion of Chris Maitland, giving this song an edge. It's not all cool, though, as there is a certain melancholy in Wilson's delivery (it isn't a happy song lyrically). An upturn on the ending syllables of the chorus suggests a bit of whining and a longing to be understood. As I alluded to, the subject of the song is far from happy - our dour protagonist has (apparently) shot himself, and writes out this song to the lover whose left him. "Last Chance To Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled" with hardly a break. Wilson plays banjo here, which gives this a different character for the band (at least from what I'm familiar with). The rhythm is mid-tempo?and leads into an instrumental section, where a sound clip of man speaking is overlaid. "Feel So Low" comes out of the dense thicket that was "Russia On Ice" with a gentle guitar, keys, organ, vocals, and strings.

I didn't really get into the album the first few times I heard it months ago. It is only now, as I'm "catching up" with it, that it is resonating with me. My favourite tracks are, as I mentioned, "The Rest Will Flow" and "Russia On Ice," but each track is good. And this is a good follow up to Stupid Dream, as unlike it as it is, there is still enough of the PT thing that there's no mistaking it's the same band. If you haven't picked this album up yet, I recommend you do, as Porcupine Tree are one branch of the future of progressive music. A deluxe edition of this album was released in March 2001.

Lightbulb Sun (5:30) / How Is Your Life Today ? (2:46) / Four Chords That Made A Million (3:36) / Shesmovedon (5:14) / Last Chance To Exit Planet Earth (4:48) / The Rest Will Flow (3:15) / Hatesong (8:26) / Where We Would Be (4:12) / Russia On Ice (13:04) / Feel So Low (5:18)

Richard Barbieri - analogue synthesizers, Hammond organ, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes
Colin Edwin - bass, sax, giumbri
Chris Maitland - drums, percussion
Steven Wilson - vocals, guitars, piano, samples, banjo, hammered dulcimer

On The Sunday Of Life... (1991)
Voyage 34 (1992)
Up The Downstair (1993)
Voyage 34: Remixes (1993)
Staircase Infinities (1994)
Moonloop E.P. (1994)
The Sky Moves Sideways (1995)
Signify (1996)
Coma Divine - Recorded Live In Rome (1997)
Stupid Dream (1999)
Voyage 34 - The Complete Trip (2000/2004/2005
'4 Chords That Made A Million' (2000)
Lightbulb Sun (2000/2008)
'Shesmovedon' (2000)
Lightbulb Sun - Special Edition (2001)
Recordings (2001)
Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991 - 1997(2002/2005)
Metanoia (2002)
In Absentia (2002)
In Absentia (European version) (2003)
Warszawa (2005)
Deadwing (2005)
Porcupine Tree (2006)
Fear Of A Blank Planet (2007)
Nil Recurring (2008)
The Incident (2009)

Arriving Somewhere... (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: April 10th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.porcupinetree.com
Hits: 796
Language: english


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