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Porcupine Tree is a Progressive Rock group formed by Steven Wilson. They are known to combine elements of rock, Ambient, Psychedelic Rock, Kraut Rock, trance and (on their most recent albums) Heavy Metal into their music. Many critics have hailed them as the modern day Pink Floyd when their popularity increased in The Nineties, but Steven Wilson has expressed his dissatisfaction with this label, preferring that Porcupine Tree be known as "the old Porcupine Tree" or "the new Porcupine Tree".
Porcupine Tree started off in 1987 as a psychedelic/space rock band with only Steven Wilson, who self released two and a half albums (Some songs on The Sky Moves Sideways were performed by all the band members), initially passing off PT as an old forgotten Fake Band, like Spinal Tap. Their fourth album, Signify, was their first album where all the band members played. Their next album, Stupid Dream, slightly withdrew from the spacy, psychedelic, Epic Rocking material on their earlier albums, adding elements of Alternative Rock and accentuating their Progressive Rock influences. Starting with In Absentia, their albums have started getting heavier and veering into progressive metal territory, although not to the extent of such bands as Opeth or Dream Theater.
Steven Wilson is known to be close friends with Mikael Akerfeldt, and the two have collaborated with each other's bands - Wilson sang backing vocals on and produced four Opeth albums (Blackwater Park, Deliverance, Damnation, and the upcoming Heritage) while Akerfeldt contributed backing vocals to three songs on Deadwing and a guitar solo to "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here".
Porcupine Tree's members are:
- Steven Wilson (guitar, vocals, keyboards, bass and drums/drum machine on the first few albums as well, various other instruments)
- Richard Barbieri (keyboards/synth since 1993, formerly a member of Japan)
- Colin Edwin (bass guitar since 1993)
- Gavin Harrison (drums since 2002)
- John Wesley (guitar, vocals since 2002, touring member only)
Former members and noteworthy guest appearances:
- Chris Maitland - drums (1993-2002)
- Mikael Akerfeldt - guitar, backing vocals on Deadwing (Opeth member)
- Adrian Belew - guitar on Deadwing (King Crimson member)
- Alex Lifeson - guitar solo on "Anesthetize" (Rush member)
- Robert Fripp - soundscapes on "Way Out Of Here" and guitar on "Nil Recurring" (King Crimson member)
- Suzanne Barbieri - vocals on "Up the Downstair" and "The Sky Moves Sideways Phase 2" (Richard's wife, one of the few other vocalists on a PT album besides Wilson)
Porcupine Tree's discography is a bit knotty. Their main albums are as follows:
- On the Sunday of Life (1991) - consists of tracks from the early cassettes Tarquin's Seaweed Farm, Love, Death & Mussolini and The Nostalgia Factory. Wilson mentioned in the reissue's liner notes that this album is impossible to remaster because it was recorded directly to tape on various 4-, 8- and 16-track machines at his home, and the tracks would be wiped once he finished a song.
- Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape (1992) - a compilation of the leftover early tracks that didn't make it on Sunday. Includes the original cassette version of "Radioactive Toy", a song that was re-recorded for Sunday. The CD version includes a cover of "The Cross" by Prince, while the vinyl version replaces that with "Out" (originally from Love, Death & Mussolini).
- Up the Downstair (1993) - features Early Bird Cameos from Barbieri and Edwin; PT only became a functioning band after the album was released.
- Remastered, partially re-recorded with the band and re-released in 2005, bundled with the Staircase Infinities EP.
- The Sky Moves Sideways (1995) - almost their first band effort; time constraints during recording meant that "The Moon Touches Your Shoulder" and "Dislocated Day" were entirely recorded by Wilson alone.
- Similarly remastered, re-recorded with Harrison's drums and re-released in 2003. None of the three editions (UK, USA, remaster) have the same tracklist, or the same version of "Moonloop".
- Signify (1997) - their first full-band effort.
- Remastered and re-released in 2003, bundled with the demos / outtakes disc Insignificance.
- Stupid Dream (1999) - the album where they started moving away from psychedelia towards prog-rock.
- Remastered in 5.1 surround sound for DVD-A in 2006.
- Lightbulb Sun (2000)
- Remastered in 5.1 surround sound for DVD-A in 2008.
- In Absentia (2002) - the start of their move towards Progressive Metal
- Deadwing (2005)
- Fear of a Blank Planet (2007)
- The Incident (2009)
Plus the predictable bunch of EPs, compilations, rarities and live albums.
Porcupine Tree provides examples of:
- All-Star Cast: Steve Wilson works with a lot of famous prog and metal musicians, and they often end up performing on Porcupine Tree albums. Mikael Akerfeldt and Adrian Belew from King Crimson show up on Deadwing, and Alex Lifeson and Robert Fripp both contribute to Fear of a Blank Planet. There's also plans for a Supergroup featuring Mikael, Steven, and Mike Portnoy, though that seems to be stuck in Development Hell.
- There's hope for the Portnoy/Wilson/Akerfeldt project now that Portnoy's left Dream Theater though.
- Jossed; according to Akerfeldt Portnoy is probably not going to be involved.
- There's hope for the Portnoy/Wilson/Akerfeldt project now that Portnoy's left Dream Theater though.
- Blasphemous Boast: "Slave Called Shiver":
I may be nothing now, but I will rise
I'll have more followers than Jesus Christ
- Breather Episode: "Sentimental", which is stuck between "Anesthetize" and "Way Out of Here", two of their bleaker songs.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Arguably. Seen most from In Absentia onwards - while there were always darker themes present here and there in their music ("Radioactive Toy", much of Signify), the earlier music was usually lighter, more whimsical and psychedelic, even when the lyrics were dark (compare the lyrics of "Radioactive Toy" to the almost Pink Floydian arrangement). As time's gone on, both the music and the lyrics have become dark and pessimistic. For a good example, compare "Nine Cats" to "Fear of a Blank Planet". Same could be said about No-Man. Steven Wilsons band together with Tim Bowness. Compare "You Grow More Beautiful" to "Mixtaped"
- Concept Album:
- Almost all their albums have uniting themes, although they aren't always concept albums in the strictest sense.
- Signify is about the ways that people try to feel that their lives matter.
- Lightbulb Sun is concerned largely with relationships that are broken, ending or haunting people after they end.
- In Absentia: Loosely tells the story of a serial killer
- Deadwing: While not necessarily one, it does link together elements of a movie script Steven was writing.
- Fear of a Blank Planet: Told from the viewpoint of a teenager in modern day society, isolated and alienated by prescription drugs and mass media. According to that other wiki it was heavily influenced by Lunar Park.
- The Incident: Has a theme of moments that change someone's life forever. The title track was inspired by a car accident Wilson witnessed, and his thoughts the the word "incident" was a very cold way to describe an event that could destroy people's lives. Another song (The Blind House) was inspired by the US government raid on a cult's ranch in Texas where polygamous marriages to teenage girls were going on.
- Cover Version: The US version of Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape includes a cover of Prince's "The Cross".
- Does Not Like Shoes: Steven Wilson usually goes barefoot.
- Downer Ending: In a musical sense, every one of their albums from Stupid Dream onward. Also, if you view In Absentia as a story, it has this in a narrative sense no matter how you interpret the story.
- Even more so with Fear of a Blank Planet, in which the protagonist is Driven to Suicide.
- Epic Rocking: Oh god, where do we start. In the lengthy but not all too crazy category, Dark Matter, Deadwing, Burning Sky, Up the Downstair, Don't Hate Me, Arriving Somewhere But Not Here, Hatesong, and Radioactive Toy, to name a few in the 8-12 minute range. Anesthetize, Russia On Ice, each half of The Sky Moves Sideways, the full version of Even Less, and the album version of Moonloop are all around 14-17 minutes (with the unedited version being 40 minutes- the max of 2 sides of vinyl.) The full version of The Sky Moves Sideways is around half an hour long, the album "The Incident" is a 55-minute "song cycle" (alongside a second 20-minute disc), and Voyage 34 is 70 MINUTES LONG.
- The Four Chords of Pop: Discussed in "Four Chords That Made A Million".
- Fun with Acronyms: "Linton Samuel Dawson"
- Last of His Kind: "A Smart Kid":
A spaceship from another star
They ask me where all the people are
What can I tell them?
I tell them I'm the only one
There was a war but I must have won
- Loudness War: Steven is opposed to this, including a disclaimer in the inner sleeve of Deadwing that the album is mastered less loud to maintain dynamics.
- The CD versions are still fairly compressed, though, most likely due to Executive Meddling. There is audible clipping on the CD version of Deadwing, but the mastering on later CDs is less crude. This is completely averted on the DVD-audio versions however.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Getting harder over their career, from 4/5 at the beginning to 7 on Fear of a Blank Planet and The Incident.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: "Trains" has a random banjo interlude in the middle, and "Anesthetize", which starts off sounding vaguely like Radiohead, progresses on to a metal section, and ends with a psychedelic sounding movement that has massive vocal overdubs.
- New Technology Is Evil: Steven Wilson dislikes MP3s and MP3 players, for decreasing the quality of music and the significance of it, respectively. He takes a few shots at iPods and video games on Fear of a Blank Planet.
- Older Than They Look: Steven, definitely. Take a nice long look at this picture. He's 44.
- The Pete Best: A lot of the lyrics on Sunday were written by one of Wilson's school friends, Alan Duffy. By the time the band became an actual concern, the two had lost contact.
- Precision F-Strike: There's a particularly effective one in the extended cut of Even Less.
- Progressive Metal: In Absentia onward. It helps that ever since that album, the metal community has considered them a member, with websites such as Metal Storm and Metal Underground reviewing their latest albums and adding their artist profile to their database.
- Record Producer: Steven Wilson does it himself, and has produced other bands (most notably Opeth). He's also been remixing King Crimson's old albums for re-release.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Wilson, most of the time.
- Stoic Spectacles Steven Wilson is a pretty man. More so with glasses than without.
- Shout-Out: "Pure Narcotic" has one in the first verse, to the Radiohead album "The Bends". A slightly less subtle one would be The Sky Moves Sideways, a psychedelic rock album with five tracks, the first and last of which are halves of the titular song. Does this remind any Pink Floyd fans of anything? And The Incident contains the song Time Flies, which is about nostalgia and contains MANY musical and lyrical hat-tips to Pink Floyd - Animals was the first album Steven Wilson bought as a child. It also has passing references to The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
- Fear of a Blank Planet is named after Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet.
- Take That: A bunch to the music industry, such as "Piano Lessons" and "The Sound of Muzak". The entire Fear of a Blank Planet album can be seen as one to today's youth popular culture as a whole, with "Anesthetize" directly mentioning MTV.
- Being as how Fear of a Blank Planet is told from the perspective of the son of Lunar Parks middle aged protagonist, it's debatable whether Steven Wilson is more disgusted with the adult producers or the young consumers.
- The title of "The Nostalgia Factory" is a swipe at the music press' short attention span (and hilariously, Melody Maker compared the song to Ride when it came out, proving the point).
Wilson: One thing I’ve tended to experience with the British music press is that if you try to talk to them about the history of music, their knowledge often doesn’t go back beyond The Stone Roses or Happy Mondays.
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: The lyrics of Nine Cats. Full stop.
- As seen below under Word Salad Lyrics, many of the lyrics prior to The Sky Moves Sideways or arguably Signify could fall under this. Nine Cats seems almost sensible compared to The Joke's On You.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Mostly seen on the earlier work, like "Nine Cats".
- Attributable, to an extent, to the fact that much earlier work featured lyrics which were gifted to Wilson by his friend Alan Duffy, along with the much more psychedelic direction of earlier albums.