So since I have no life, I paid the extra bucks to be able to download the newest Porcupine Tree release a little earlier than others. Having sat through the first listen, here’s a couple of thoughts.
Disclaimer: there have been times in the past when my first listen thoughts ended up being radically different from what I thought later on. I didn’t like Marillion’s Clutching At Straws at first, then came to think of it as the best release of the Fish era. In a totally different area, I thought Jane Siberry’s Since I Was A Boy was, well, boring, the first time I listened to it, but now think of it as one of my favorite releases of anyone at anytime. So, this is subject to change.
It sounds as much as a Stephen Wilson solo project as a Porcupine Tree, although how or why that is, is difficult to describe in specifics. I’m not entirely sure how the 55-minute song cycle fits together, other than that SW thought it was a song cycle. Since I don’t have any lyric sheets yet, it’s hard to know if there is something there to see (though, as I’ve made it clear on numerous occasions, I don’t look to rock music lyrics for anything of significance…if it ain’t in the Bible or Shakespeare, it probably isn’t that important…but I digress). There is one minor recurring musical theme, but it is pretty minor. ‘Time Flies’ is obviously supposed to be the main song, and it is good. It does bring about an immediate Pink Floyd comparison, as a part of it sounds like the end of ‘Dogs’ from Animals, but then again, the ending of ‘Anesthetize’ sounded like ‘Echoes’, and that didn’t hurt. I think I like ‘I Drive the Hearse’ (the closing track) the best, but it’s only a first listen.
The four ‘other’ songs that aren’t part of the song cycle seem to me to be pretty throwaway. ‘Black Dahlia’ is nice, but other than that, nothing really stands out.
Although I don’t think anyone has ever confused SW with Eddie Van Halen, I do look forward to a nice solo from him. There isn’t really one, except maybe on ‘Time Flies’, so that’s probably a negative.
All in all, it is hard to compare this release to other PT releases. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, or both. It’ll take a few more listens, at least, to think about. I like it, which is good, especially considering that I am driving out to Cleveland on the 21st to see them (even though they will be in Chicago on the 22nd, which I’m also seeing).
There isn’t a single band or artist that I’ve liked that hasn’t released ‘that horrible album’ at some point or another, except maybe PT (I can’t say I have a strong opinion on their earliest stuff). Luckily, this one isn’t it. Whether it is more than good or just good (in the way that Marbles is brilliant while Happiness is the Road is just really good) I’m not sure.