Friday, April 30, 2010

Point-Counterpoint: Porcupine Tree - Signify


Porcupine Tree blew me away with In Absentia.  I decided I needed to hear more.  I picked up Deadwing shortly after it was released (that is another album for one of these point-counterpoint articles).  Then, while browsing a Borders in Detroit, on my way to yet another residency interview, I picked up Signify.

When I finally had a chance to put it in and listen to it, I was initially thrilled.  The opening track is more of a "noise" track, but sets up the rest of the album.  "Signify" is a fabulous instrumental number with a great bassline that propels the track.  Then the organ intro to the third track kicked in.  Suddenly I wasn't in Kansas anymore.  I'm not even sure I made it through the entire album on that long car ride from Knoxville, TN, to Raleigh, NC (360 miles FYI).

Signify has some great moments, no doubt.  However, there are too many skip-worthy tracks on this album for it to be a frequent item on any playlist of mine.  There are really strong tracks here.  But there is also too much psychedlia/spacey pop stuff for me.  Porcupine Tree is a fantastic band, but I definitely prefer their latter work.

Final Verdict: Explore it (probably best explored with mind-altering substances, though no first-hand experience)


In Absentia was also my first foray into the world of Porcupine Tree (because, of course, I was introduced to them by Peter.  It happens).  Following that, I gobbled up every PT album I could get my hands on - and one of the very first I found was Signify.

Porcupine Tree really has three eras in their music - the first was a psychedelic experiment in ambiance, the second was a time of melody-driven power pop, and with In Absentia on it's been heavier and more crushing.  As far as that first epoch of their sound goes, Signify is the bright shining example of what Steven Wilson and crew could do.

In points, it's loud and cacophonous; in others, it's spare and empty, carefully weighing the use of sound and silence to the greatest degree.  It's filled to overflowing with samples of old radio programs, grounding it in musical history; the bass is very loud (just the way I like it); the drumming by former drummer Chris Maitland (who has gone on to greatness in Guilt Machine) is poppy and slick; and Wilson's guitar work is always detached, antiseptic, and awesome.

In short: I love this album.  It's the best thing PT did in their first decade.

Final Verdict: Adore it (with a virgin daiquiri and plenty of time to sit back and enjoy)

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