Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun

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

Steve Wilson and his buddies have once again done it. They are one of the few bands who have the ability to steer their music from ambient soundscapes to unmistakably rock and back again all in one single composition. Title track "Lightbulb Sun" is exactly that, what with kicking off on that wonderful acoustic guitar of Wilson before resulting in the fierce rhythm which has Colin Edwin playing as if it's his very last session!

"How Is Your Life Today?" is a waltz based around a repetitive piano rhythm interspersed with Beach Boys harmonies to give it a very playful feel. The song almost results in the kind of music you would associate with fairs and carnivals. Only the candyfloss is missing! Enter the tablas and the psychedelic guitar riffs in "Four Chords That Made A Million" before Steve once again steers the song into a pure rock direction. Whilst it didn't strike me as that obvious on the previous albums, I have to confess that both bass and drums feature heavily in the mix whilst Richard Barbieri's work is mainly used to enhance the atmosphere rather than be in the foreground. The wonderful play with words in "Shesmovedon" once again has Steve use the acoustic guitar as the basis on which this superb song is hinged. The song has a very recognizable "hook" by means of a very addictive rhythm and a great chorus. Then Richard's soft arrangement plus the nice vocal harmonies take us back to the highlights of the Signify period. A freaky guitar solo tops it all as a hypnotic ending to another forthcoming Porcupine Tree classic!

Simply stunning! That's the least I can say about the truly magnificent, experimental "Last Chance To Exit Planet Earth" which even contains banjo, hammered dulcimer and some ace mellotron interventions. Imagine the intro being a tiny bit country-ish (the banjo!), evolving into a folky tune (the acoustic guitar plus the vocals) before drowning in ambient eternity (Barbieri's "colours of sounds") in order to heal the mind. A divine track which lifts you on imaginary clouds from one end of the world into the other, all in under five minutes!

"The Rest Will Flow" is a nice sounding 3-minute pop song with string arrangements by XTC's Dave Gregory and the kind of "better" pop song you could also expect from the likes of XTC or Dukes of Stratosfear, although less psychedelic. "Hatesong" has Colin Edwin shining in all his glory as his bass sets off against a growing backdrop of sounds. The reason why Colin is featured so heavily is probably mainly due to the fact that he wrote this song along with Steve Wilson. All of the other songs have been written by Wilson alone, whilst "Russia On Ice" is a true Porcupine Tree composition where all four individuals contributed. "Hatesong" goes on in an experimental fashion with lots of "weird" sounds being added to enhance the atmosphere whilst Chris Maitland keeps the rhythm as tight as he can. I also luuuuuv the fierce rhythm breaks and aggressive guitars which evolve in true Pink Floyd style (are you sure Dave Gilmour isn't guesting here, Steve?)

Birdsong and a bicycle bell introduce "Where We Would Be" another "authentic" PT acoustic song. Certainly one of the major highlights has to be found in "Russia On Ice" which kicks off with that inimitable sound of the Fender Rhodes which has so often been the basis for a lot of Canterbury scene material. Then the music evolves into a "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" period Floyd-like structure. Dave Gregory's string arrangements really lift this song to unseen heights introducing fragile textures and subtle elements. But the calm isn't there for long because suddenly the musical activities of the foursome explode leaving behind intensive fragments of their genius in every corner of the room. Church bells end this spectacular journey through sound and the synthetic howling wind flows right into the closing song on the album. "Feel So Low" could well be a lullaby due to its brisk arrangement and the soft singing of Steve. The mellotron once again blends perfectly with the atmosphere of the song whilst real cello and strings are also added in order to give it an even fuller sound.

Lightbulb Sun is a very mature album made by a true band in every sense of the word. On every new Porcupine Tree album you can hear that the four are getting tighter and tighter although it's still Steve Wilson shuffling the cards. The new album certainly is the right successor for the splendid Stupid Dream which was maybe more compact. On Lightbulb Sun one can find the right balance between shorter, maybe radio-friendly, tunes and longer, more experimental songs. If it worked for Pink Floyd to one day write "Echoes" and the next day "Money" then I guess Porcupine Tree is heading in the right direction. In fact without really aiming to become a hit group, they have to appeal to lovers of Radiohead and even Smashing Pumpkins because their music offers such a wide variety of tastes all on one album. Another big step forward in the never-ending Porcupine Tree journey. Now if you don't mind I'd like to soak up some lightbulb sun!

The single "Four Chords That Made A Million" will be released on May 8th in three different versions: CD1 (smascd111) "4 Chords That Made A Million" / "Disappear" (non album) / "In Formaldehyde" (non album)
CD2 (smasxcd111) numbered limited edition (2000 copies) "4 Chords That Made A Million" / "Even Less" (original 16 min. long Steve Wilson demo)
7" vinyl (smas7111) numbered limited edition (1000 copies) "4 Chords That Made A Million" / "Orchidia" (instrumental)

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 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.porcupinetree.com
Hits: 2240
Language: english


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