I haven’t done one of these columns in some time so I figured I should tackle one of prog’s more popular “modern” bands. As always, this is just going to be STUDIO albums. Also I am not including the demos that Steven Wilson did on cassette tape and I am not including EPs. Although, I do consider “Nil Recurring” to be a part of or companion piece for “Fear of a Blank Planet.”
So with that all in mind, let’s look at how I rank Porcupine Tree’s studio albums!
11. On the Sunday of Life…
It’s not like I HATE any Porcupine Tree album, but I can’t say that I LIKE this one very much. It has it’s moments like “Radioactive Toy,” but much of it seems silly. Plus having fake drums doesn’t help. This one is always last for me.
10. Up the Downstair
I actually like a fair amount of this album A LOT! “Always Never” and “Fadeaway” are two of my favorite PT tracks ever. If we are talking about the 2004 version with real drums, I would move this up a bit. The problem on that album was that Gavin Harrison didn’t cut loose enough when he was added to it. This one can go as high as #7.
9. The Incident
This album was a let down for me. After a string of amazing albums, I think SW was getting tired of PT. Plus he was writing songs for Blackfield and his solo album. I think the songwriting well was a little dry. I do love “I Drive the Hearse” and “Time Flies.” This never gets higher than 8 and could slip to 9.
8. The Sky Moves Sideways
While this album is basically a Pink Floyd knockoff, it’s a damn good one! The title track is great as is the whole “Moonloop” improv. But it’s not an album that got any better with time. It can slide down a few on my list but it’s not higher than 7.
7. Lightbulb Sun
This is a great album…well mostly great. I love tracks like “Shesmovedon,” “Russia on Ice,” “The Rest Will Flow,” and “Hatesong.” But I have never liked “Four Chords That Made a Million” and the sample on “Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled” gets annoying after a few hundred listens. I wish “Buying New Soul” had been on this one.
Porcupine Tree is one of those rare artists that their B-sides are as good as their A-sides. In the case of this compilation, it proves they are often BETTER than most of their stuff. The full version of “Even Less” is incredible of course. “Buying New Soul” is a favorite. “In Formaldehyde” should have been on an album. There’s really no weak moment. The only downside is since it’s a compilation, the flow of the tracks ideal.
This album never goes lower than this for me. I do wish they included “Signify II” because it’s actually better than the title track! “Waiting,” “Dark Matter, “Every Home Is Wired” and “Sever” are all truly inspired songs. Even the demos from this period are stellar. So why isn’t this album higher?!? Well sometimes it can go up one slot.
This is a great album and a classic. For me there are a couple of SLIGHTLY weaker tracks when compared to the albums that I have at 1-3. “Lazarus” is my favorite PT song. The title track, “Arriving Somewhere but Not Here” and “Halo” are awesome. But while I like “Glass Shattering Arm,” “Half Light” would have been a better closing track IMO. Plus the new version of “Shemovedon” just isn’t as great as the original and I would have included “So Called Friend” instead.
3. Fear of a Blank Planet/Nil Recurring
2. Stupid Dream
My top three albums are always these three albums. These two flip flop between 2 and 3. Each are basically perfect albums. “Fear” is a fully realized concept album and sounds great. “Stupid Dream” is true progressive pop with some prog epics mixed in. When SW claimed he was doing prog pop with his new album, I expected the level of quality on “Stupid Dream.” Obviously I was disappointed in that new album. “Stupid Dream” plays like a greatest hits album.
1. In Absentia
This album is my clear #1. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time by anyone. I remember hearing “Blackest Eyes” kick in for the first time and thinking maybe I had the wrong CD. It was heavier than anything PT had done. That song along with “Trains,” “The Sound of Muzak,” “Prodigal,” “Wedding Nails,” and really EVERY song…it’s just so incredible. This album remains as the best thing that PT has done and SW as well.
So there you have it. I have no doubt everyone will have their own list. Comment to this with your lists and tell me why you chose them in that order!