Thursday, October 27, 2011

#8: Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet

Release Year: 2007

Porcupine Tree has had a vibrant career, with a history of genre jumping.  The early days were psychedelic, and after a brief hiatus after Lightbulb Sun, they took up metal.  2007's Fear of a Blank Planet is like a look back at everything they had done up to that point, with apparent ties to many of their previous styles.

In describing the theme of this album, Steven Wilson stated, to paraphrase, that when he was growing up in the 1980s, the biggest issue society was facing was racial tensions, and one of the most important albums on that topic was Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet.  Now, race issues seem to be largely a thing of the past, but kids growing up in this age face a whole new set of problems related to proliferation of information.  As he related it, he didn't even know what pornography was until he was 16, but now it's a click away for most ten year olds.

Thus, all of the lyrics on this album deal with the subject of how our modern society is shaping adolescents.  The songs largely deal with overmedication, teenage angst, suicide, entitlement, etc.  Because I generally agree with his conjecture that the onslaught of information is one of the major circumstances that will determine where humanity goes in the future, I can really appreciate this album, even if its lyrics are fairly simple.  The message it conveys is not deep or mastered, but it is succinct.  It doesn't tell you how to think about the issues; it gets you to think about them.

But of course, the music is superb as well, or else I wouldn't have this in my top 10.  Gavin Harrison shines on drums, the textures are rich, the harmonies are as excellent as ever, and we have the most abstract Porcupine Tree has been since Signify.  And if you include the other tracks from the FoaBP sessions in your evaluation ("Normal," "What Happens Now?", "Nil Recurring," and "Cheating The Polygraph" were not included because Wilson felt they did not fit like he wanted them to), it's even more superb.

Standout tracks:
  • Fear of a Blank Planet
  • Anesthetize
  • Normal (technically from Nil Recurring) 

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