Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CD Review - Porcupine Tree - The Incident

If you liked Porcupine Tree’s last three albums (Deadwing, Fear of a Blank Planet and In Absentia), you will love The Incident. Steven Wilson does not stray from what has been working, which is heavily syncopated chunk guitar rhythms, unusual picked acoustic chord progressions, great vocal harmonies and insane, insane drumming.

Except this time he has strung together a 55 minute piece called The Incident, made up of 14 songs that blend together to form one big story. Some of these 14 are soundscape interludes that bridge larger, more structured songs.

The centerpiece is an 11 minute tune called Time Flies. This song sounds a bit like Dogs from Pink Floyd’s Animals to me, with a very cool, simple strummed acoustic rhythm that repeats as the vocals and other instruments build around it, with a mellow, long center section that has dissonant power chords bouncing off of picked arpeggios. The song in fact winds up with some high electric strumming that reminds me of the end of Sheep. Hey why not, it worked for the Floyd! But PT make it their own. It’s a kick ass song.

Thematically, The Incident seems to be a number of different perspectives on a horrible car crash, from the victim’s family to the car driver, to the guy who drives the hearse, to a guy who sees ghosts on the highway. I don’t know – I have only heard this a couple of times. But as usual, Wilson’s lyrics are top notch. Not quite as angst-ridden and despondent as Fear of a Blank Planet, though – they are a bit more introspective.

There are some nice, mellow melodic acoustic-based tunes, such as the album closer, I Drive The Hearse, and some crazy power chord syncopated stuff too like Octane Twisted. In fact, the album starts off with some of the heaviest power chords I have ever heard recorded, and these come back about 80 percent through the CD in Degree Zero of Liberty. But overall, this album is not quite as heavy as the last couple.

I almost hear more 70s prog influences like Floyd and Genesis than on earlier albums, which seemed more based in 90s guitar tones and syncopation. I hear more Hammond organ, Mellotron, Steve Hackett-style acoustic picking and overdriven solos, and man is there a slide tone right off of Echoes in Your Unpleasant Family. The one exception is the title track, which is based around an electronic booming beat that builds and culminates with a catchy “I want to be loved” sung over and over underneath a sustain and reverb-laden ripping guitar solo.

The second CD is a collection of four songs that fall outside of The Incident story and have more involvement from the rest of the band, writing-wise. They could have fit on the first CD but I read that Wilson did not want to muddy up The Incident by putting anything else on that disc. The price reflects that of a single CD, as well, so you are not getting gouged to bring Wilson’s vision to fruition.

I am now really looking forward to tomorrow’s show in Portland. I have a feeling they are going to play The Incident in its entirety, and I really hope they do!

I know I am doing this huge work only partial justice by writing a review after just a few listens. I am sure I will hear lots of other things on repeated listening, but I wanted to get something posted while my first impression thoughts were fresh. But I also know that if I like a CD this much already, I am going to really love it later. So...If U like PT, get this CD ASAP!

PS - excellent Steven Wilson interview here.


mark colman said...

Agreed! Great CD! See you at Roseland. I'll be wearing an Adrian Belew "e" tee shirt.
I'm @kram on twitter.

Isorski said...

Hey - GREAT artwork on the Belew stuff. I will keep an eye out for you tonight, and we can at least be Twitter buddies. Ha ha.

Anonymous said...

I bought "The Incident" the day it came out and have been listening to it on and off since then. A good, but not great, PT disc. My biggest issue is with the many 2 minute passages: most seem like unfinished song ideas. I don't think anyone would have minded the band spending a bit more time fleshing these tunes out. Overall, I'm a bit disappointed.

PS: Porcupine Tree is a outstanding live band..one of the best I've ever seen.