Tag Archive: Fear Of A Blank Planet



This is my first blog post in over 7 years! (Naughty, Naughty!)

I’ve recently bought a new record player and starting buying Vinyl as a new hobby and during the last few months I’ve already picked up 4 Porcupine Tree Albums (Deadwing, In Absentia, Fear of a Blank Planet and Up the Downstair) and having spun them up a couple of times it’s really got me back into my favourite band of all time!

It got me thinking that if I had to rank all 10 of their studio albums from worst to best what would my list look like? So I’ve decided to list them!

I also want this list to be a bit of a love letter to Porcupine Tree as officially they have called it quits, according to this interview with frontman Steven Wilson in March 2018 and the wording on their Wikipedia entry. 😦

10 Albums (and countless EPs/Live Albums/B-side compilations) over a 20 year career isn’t bad and Steven Wilson is still going strong with a very successful solo career having just released his 5th solo album ‘To the Bone’ recently (which hit the number #3 slot in the UK album charts!) so all is not completely lost, we are still getting music from the Maestro!

Few disclaimers first:

  • This is my list therefore only reflects my opinions of the 10 albums and by no means should be taken seriously.
  • I’ve listed my standout track and a second recommendation for each album based entirely on the songs that engage with me and that I enjoy the most – these might not be the same songs that do it for you!
  • I’ve also listed what I consider low point of each album (with one exception!) for me personally, these are songs that generally don’t resonate with me like the rest do. It does not mean these are terrible songs and there may be some controversial selections on my part but again, these are just my opinions.
  • Whilst I have ranked these albums from worst to best – worst is a bit misleading as actually enjoy all these 10 albums IMMENSLEY – but some do it for me more then others!
  • I’ve provided links to the songs I mention that will take you to YouTube if you wanted to listen to my recommendations.

10. The Incident

The_Incident_cover

Released: 2009 (10th and Final PT Album)

I reviewed this album in full some years ago and looking back now I can say that the prediction I left in that review that PT would be around for countless years to come was something I got completely wrong! I must have been completely absorbed by it at the time as my review is really positive, in reflection 7 years later it’s not as strong as I remember it!

Despite this album hitting the bottom position on my list I do enjoy it however there are parts of the Incident (it’s 55 minutes long divided into 14 parts) that to put it bluntly are not as strong as others! It is an incredibly diverse album that covers a lot of ground but some of the smaller parts do not do enough to engage with me successfully and I find I don’t really listen to this album as much as the others.

Controversial statement: I cannot stand the album closer ‘I DRIVE THE HEARSE’ just don’t like it, never have never will!

Standout Track: Times Flies

Also Check Out: Flicker

Album Low Point: I Drive the Hearse

9. Stupid Dream

Porcupine_Tree_-_Stupid_Dream

Released: 1999 (5th PT Album)

Stupid Dream marked a change of direction for the band as everything prior to this release mostly fell within the psychedelic/space rock bucket. This was the band’s first attempt at writing more cohesive songs that definitely sound more commercial then anything they had released before, which is kind of ironic as one of the themes of the album is about ‘selling out’ and that music is treated like a product to be sold rather then an experience to savoured. By no means am I suggesting PT sold out on this album but it did mark a massive transition in their sound.

The issue I have with this album is that the songs I really enjoy on this album are just too good compared to the ones I don’t and therefore it comes across as a bit inconsistent especially compared to just about everything released after this.

Standout Track: Even Less

Also Check Out: A Smart Kid

Album Low Point: This is No Rehearsal

8. Up The Downstair

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Released: 1993 (2nd PT Album)

In terms of sheer production quality there is a massive jump between the 1st and 2nd PT albums (although I enjoy the debut more – see below) and Up the Downstair marked the first inclusion of future PT band mates Richard Barbieri (Keyboards) & Colin Edwin (Bass) who both contributed to the album with their unique styles.

There’s some really good music on Up the Downstair and highly recommended for those who like space rock in general, there’s a big emphasise on electro-rhythm with this album, many of the tracks have a pulsating groove to them and ‘BURNING SKY’ (just go listen to it!) would make my 10 ten PT songs of all time for sure.

Standout Track: Burning Sky

Also Check out: Fadeaway

Album Low Point: Always Never

7. On the Sunday of Life

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Released: 1992 (1st PT Album)

I’m not sure many people will agree with me placing the debut album this high up, most top 10 lists I’ve seen on the internet consistently place this is in the bottom slot. It can’t really be considered a full band album as it’s just Steven Wilson (playing everything you hear on the album) basically experimenting. It does have it’s low points, there are far too many filler tracks lasting less then a minute or so that are just noisy/ambient segue tracks; but it also has ‘RADIOACTIVE TOY’ which is still a fan favourite to this day.

I have a real soft spot for this album, it’s raw and kind of meanders all over the place like your drunk uncle would at a family gathering but there’s so much going off that it’s hard to ignore the fact that if this is where it all started. It has a wonderful naivety to it that I still very much enjoy to this day.

Standout Track: Radioactive Toy

Also Check Out: It Will Rain for a Million Years

Album Low Point: Third Eye Surfer

6. Lightbulb Sun

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Released: 2000 (6th PT Album)

It would be on later albums that PT would shift to a more metal orientated sound with their overall style but certainly the genesis of this evolution started with this album. It almost feels like the album is broken down into 2 parts with poppy short numbers dominating the 1st half of the album and longer more progressive pieces nearer the end.

Despite this, I feel that the album flows very well and compared to Stupid Dream (the album before it) I would say it’s a far stronger effort. The heaviness of the metal sections in ‘HATESONG’ and ‘RUSSIA ON ICE’ contrast nicely to beautiful lighter songs like ‘THE REST WILL FLOW’ and ‘FEEL SO LOW’.

Standout Track: Hatesong

Also Check Out: Russia on Ice

Album Low Point: Four Chords That Made a Million

5. The Sky Moves Sideways

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Released: 1995 (3rd PT Album)

The first time I heard this album I was blown away by just how good it was! I wouldn’t say it’s immediately accessible due to the long tracks that bookend the shorter tracks (both phases of the title track are 20 mins long each!) but this album is one that always takes you on a journey. I wouldn’t say it’s post-rock in the traditional sense but it’s the most post-rock sounding album in PT’s catalogue!

Lot’s of reviews I’ve read compare it to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album (which I also adore) but I think that is an unfair comparison! Both albums have 5 tracks but the music is very different. It’s very ambient and electronic in places and loud and rhythmic in others being mostly instrumental. It’s actually my favourite PT album to listen to on headphones whilst drifting off into a lucid dream as it has that floating away vibe to it.

Standout Track: The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One)

Also Check Out: Dislocated Day

Album Low Point: The Moon Touches Your Shoulder

4. Signify

Porcupine_tree_signify

Released: 1996 (4th PT Album)
This wasn’t the first PT album I listened to in full, however it has the distinction of hosting the very first PT song I ever heard being ‘SEVER’, and it was love on first hearing!! Signify is a very dark sounding album for their earlier days and I don’t think it gets as dark again until they enter their metal phase many albums after this one.

It has some excellent music from the Kraut-Rock inspired ‘SIGNIFY’, the dreamy rock of ‘WAITING PHASE ONE’ to the trance-like criticism of organised religion in ‘IDIOT PRAYER’ there’s lots that I enjoy on this album and it flows very well, everything fits in place perfectly and I’d say this is the album sounds like the 1st actual band effort rather then an entirely Steven Wilson focussed effort.

I do need to address the elephant in the room though, the album closer – ‘DARK MATTER’ is often considered one of PT’s best songs and is well revered by the fan base but I’ve got to be honest it does absolutely nothing for me, everything on the album before it I enjoy more!

Standout Track: Sever

Also Check Out: Signify

Album Low Point: Dark Matter

3. In Absentia

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Released: 2002 (7th PT Album)

So we’re into my top three and what I’ve noticed here is that my top three were all chronologically released in order starting with this entry. It’s very tight between my top 3 actually, but I needed to rank them nevertheless. In Absentia is often cited as the best album the band released and with good reason its an absolute beast of an album and enjoy it very much.

What I enjoy about this album is thematically its a powerhouse covering everything from serial killers, youthful innocence gone wrong and it’s very much a criticism of the modern world and it’s problems.

It also marked a shift towards heavier sounding music and this is the first album that has what is now considered that ‘classic PT metal sound’. Steven Wilson had recently discovered Opeth and Meshuggah and whilst the sound of the album is nowhere near the brutal heaviness of those two bands you can certainly tell the influences he had been drawing upon. The album also contains the track ‘TRAINS’ which is possibly one of the most requested encore songs at live PT performances because it’s fantastic! (one day, a reunion, he hopes!).

Standout Track: Gravity Eyelids

Also Check Out: .3/Strip the Soul

Album Low Point: Prodigal

2. Deadwing

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Released: 2005 (8th PT Album)

Deadwing has the honour of being the first PT album I bought and listened to and I probably wore out a few CD Players back in 2005 when I became obsessed with it. I played it that many times, it even got my best friend into the band as it was always on the stereo when he visited me at the time!

As a concept album Deadwing is a ghost story, apparently the plan was to release it as a soundtrack to a film that Steven Wilson had written a screenplay for but these plans were ultimately scrapped and the music became a PT band project instead.

‘ARRIVING SOMEWHERE BUT NOT HERE’ held my #1 favourite PT song slot until a certain song on the follow-up album to this replaced it (see below) and represents everything great the band is capable of in one 12 minute swoop. Shorter Songs like ‘HALO’ and ‘LAZURUS’ are extremely well crafted and you can tell the band are having fun. The album also contains the vastly underrated ‘THE START OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL’ and my vinyl edition contains the B-sides including the heart wrenching ‘HALF-LIGHT’.

You can read my full review here.

Standout Track: Arriving Somewhere but Not Here

Also Check Out: Halo

Album Low Point: Mellotron Scratch

1. Fear of a Blank Planet

FOABP

Released: 2007 (9th PT Album)

This is the album I would recommend to anyone to listen to first who had never heard Porcupine Tree before despite the fact is contains a 17 minute beast of a track ‘ANESTHETIZE’ which I’ll go on record now and say is my number one PT song of all time.

It’s also the only album on this list where I cannot say there’s a low point on the album, every track in my opinion is of the highest quality, all the songs are brilliant and cover a variety of aural delights. The album has one of the strongest opening tracks of any PT album in the form of the title track and the features my favourite PT closing track in ‘SLEEP TOGETHER’ which is a dark delicious electro-rock treat.

The band were definitely at their strongest peak with the music they released on this album with all members dominating with their contributions, and although Gavin Harrison (Drummer) had only replaced old drummer Chris Maitland on the album before, on this album I feel he gives an absolutely stirling drumming masterclass.

You can read my full review here, this is a 10+/10 album in my opinion, a desert island disc, a must have for anyone who gives enjoys music to have in their collection.

Standout Track: Anesthetize

Also Check Out: Sleep Together

Album Low Point: NONE!

So that’s my list, feel free to post your own in the comments section below, no doubt it will be different to mine but that’s the great thing about music, it can be a deeply personal experience and as long as you enjoy what you hear, I say go for it!

DP.

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Genre: Rock\Metal

Year Of Release: 2007

Record Label: Roadrunner

Recommended for fans of: Tool, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack.

 

Track Listing:

  1. “Fear of a Blank Planet” – 7:28
  2. “My Ashes”– 5:07
  3. “Anesthetize” – 17:42
  4. “Sentimental” – 5:26
  5. “Way Out of Here” – 7:37
  6. “Sleep Together” – 7:28

Review

 

This is possibly my most listened to album at the moment [as of early 2008] and I guess I’m going to give it a rest for a few months or so; therefore now is the best time to write the review, seeing as I’m retiring it for a while! Now the clever ones amongst you will notice that since it has been my most listened to album lately, then it must be a good one. It is, in fact its that good that it’s the first review I’m going to give full marks for on this site, and believe me when I say that I won’t be handing out full marks that often. 

Before ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ was released, it was probably the most eagerly anticipated Porcupine Tree album yet, the fact that the band were playing the album in its entirety live during autumn 2006 added to the excitement. I was present at one of these ‘preview’ gigs, when the set was divided into 2 parts, the first part was ‘FOABP’ albeit in a pre-studio form, and the 2ndset comprising of mostly stuff from the previous 2 albums [Deadwing and In Absentia] with some classics thrown in.  I have to say on hearing the material in its early form, I was both overwhelmed and delighted, the freshness and complete unfamiliarity with the material was fantastic, and fan reaction was very favourable. So after this batch of tour dates, PT went into the studio and recorded the penultimate versions that you hear on the final album, and what an album it is! 

Now, ‘FOABP’ is a concept album, I don’t want to go too in-depth about the concept, rather add little slithers here and there when I see fit. SW was heavily inspired by the novel ‘Lunar Park’ by Bret Easton Ellis. The novel is written from the perspective of a father, what SW has done is turned things on its head and made the story in ‘FOABP’ from the fathers sons point of view. That of a terminally bored kid with little to do other to sit in a darkened room playing playstation games, watching hardcore pornography whilst being addicted to prescription drugs. The album is very much ‘this’ kids view on his life as he see’s it.  If you need further clarification, all you have to do is read the lyrics. What is equally as important as the lyrics, is the music, this album is one of the best albums for production and musicianship I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to! 

So the album opens up with the title track ‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’after what sounds like someone typing on a computer keyboard [the kid, possibly googling for pornography] a vibrant fast paced guitar enters which is soon joined by Gavin Harrison’s immense drumming. If you though GH sounded good on ‘Deadwing’ you’re in for a treat, his drumming on this album is fantastic. The song is joined with some great rhythmic singing from SW, which opens up the song and sets the scene for the next 7 minutes. The song features some nice playing by all the band members, and it’s a fantastic album opener which draws you in from the very start, the metal section mid-song is awesome, and the outro section bringing a change of pace for the next song. All the tracks on ‘FOABP’ merge into one another, SW has said that he wanted the album to be heard as one continuous piece of music, the transitions are wonderfully done.

So when ‘My Ashes’ appears next you are ready for it. This could be described as the ‘Lazarus’ of ‘FOABP’, with lush acoustic guitars and SW’s soothing voice leading the way. What I like about this song though is the soundscapes provided by Richard Barbieri, they really add a punch to the song in creating a delectable atmosphere. This song works really well in luring the listener into a false sense of security because the next track is possibly the best Porcupine Tree song ever created, at least in my opinion.  

Before the album tracks were officially named, the 3rdsong on the album was affectionately known my fans as ‘The Beast’ and quite rightly so. ‘Anesthetize’ is one hell of a 17 minute ride. Now I don’t initially dismiss long songs  as being pretentious, or overly bloated like many people would do, that’s not to say that some aren’t. ‘Anesthetize’ certainly isn’t, it could be described as being divided into 3 distinct sections, the 1stsection features Gavin Harrison’s drumming at its best, a georgous chorus plus a fantastic guitar solo provided by Alex Lifeson. [Rush] The 2ndsection comprises of a lengthy instrumental part followed by a vocal part that’s so full of texture and hidden depth it comes bursting out of the speakers by the bucketload. The talent displayed by each band member during this section is a delight to hear. The 3rd section is what could be best described as total sweetness for the ears, completely contrasting the other two sections that came before it. The vocal harmonies are out of this world, and overall I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to end the song. Perfection.

 The rest of the album is still fantastic, although nothing comes close to beating the 17 minute centerpiece, the next song ‘Sentimental’is sort of a companion song to ‘My Ashes’. It has some wonderful piano in it, and even manages to give a sly wink to ‘Trains’ off of ‘In Absentia’. The only thing that I didn’t like about this song at first was the weird Banjo solo [if it is indeed a Banjo] that is played over the ‘Trains-like’ riff. I’d hate to listen to the song without it now! 

‘Way Out Of Here’is a little bit of a anomaly, you see this song wasn’t originally debuted with the rest of the album back on the 2006 fall tour. The reason being that a song called ‘Cheating The Polygraph’ was in its place. SW either decided that ‘CTP’ wasn’t good enough to make the final album or just didn’t fit in very well, so the band got together and wrote ‘WOOH’ to fill the void. Good choice because its miles better then ‘CTP’ which actually ended up on the ‘Nil Recurring EP’. The song also contains some rather inspired soundscapes by none other then the legend himself Robert Fripp [King Crimson] who is actually a very good friend of SW. These soundscapes fit lovingly into a section of the song before a big chunky metal riff comes in and rips everything apart. I love the interplay on this song, and the outro features some fantastic bass work off of the wonderful Colin Edwin. 

The album closes on ‘Sleep Together’. One of the best PT album closers yet, normally a PT album closer is a fairly downbeat affair such as ‘Stop Swimming’, ‘Feel So Low’ or ‘Glass Arm Shattering’. Not in this case, what could be best described as Nine Inch Nails meets Massive Attack meets ELO is the meal of choice. I’m an absolute sucker for dark electronica, more-so for strings, you meld the two and oh boy what a result! The outro section is one of the most memorable pieces of music I’ve heard in a decade. 

‘Fear Of A Blank Planet’ is without a doubt the best PT release yet, only one other PT album in my opinion would score the same, that being ‘In Absentia’, and I’ve not reviewed that one yet! If you like to lose yourself within the dark corridors of your mind for 50 minutes, and indulge yourself in a reverse ‘Lunar Park’ then I can highly recommend you order this work of art immediately. You won’t be disappointed. 

Lineup: 

Steven Wilson – vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards
Richard Barbieri – keyboards and synthesizers
Colin Edwin – bass guitars
Gavin Harrison – drums  

Guests: 
Alex Lifeson (Rush) – guitar solo on “Anesthetize”
Robert Fripp (King Crimson) – soundscapes on “Way Out of Here”
John Wesley – backing vocals 

Score: 5.0/5.0 

D.P