Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Porcupine Tree, Signify (Deluxe Edition)

After hearing Parametric Monkey’s “Horns of the Moon” a fan thought I might like Porcupine Tree.  Turns out this is one of the unexpected benefits of making your own music available for people to hear – discerning fans tune you in to music you hadn’t listened to before.  I don’t hear what it is about “Horns of the Moon” that might link it to Porcupine Tree (at least what little I’ve heard from the band) but I do like Porcupine Tree.

Porcupine Tree is usually categorized as prog rock and compared with Emerson Lake and Palmer.  Comparisons to ELP have the effect of making run in the opposite direction.  Porcupine Tree is also characterized as psychedelic rock and I should have noted that and paid more attention.

Signify is Porcupine Tree’s first proper album originally released in 1996.  The Deluxe Edition reviewed here includes a second disc entitled Insignificance which contains demos, alternative versions of some of the tracks on Signify, and songs recorded at the same time but not included on the original album.  All of it has been remastered.

Steven Wilson is the pith of Porcupine Tree.  He wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks on Signify, sings, plays guitar and other instruments and produced and mixed the album.  At least at this stage of their development, Porcupine Tree is his vision and, musically, he sees far and wide.  In both breadth of style and virtuosity Wilson’s guitar playing reminds me of Frank Zappa.  Also like Zappa, Wilson is a composer as well as a musician.  While on Signify he doesn’t display Zappa’s compositional abilities (but then again, who does?), Wilson is very good and almost always interesting with a seemingly inexhaustible cache of ideas.

As lyric writer I find him less interesting.  Signify is filled with the kind of overwrought angst that is stereotypical of this type of music.  Everything sucks, nobody understands, nobody has suffered like he has. Boo-hoo.  Fortunately, the mopey lyrics are embedded in brilliant music and Signify devotes much more space to the music.

I don’t know enough about Porcupine Tree to know if the inclusion of the second disc would make this a worthwhile purchase for fans of the band.  Special edition discs of demos and tracks left off albums often illustrate why the tracks were left behind in the first place and are only of interest to rabid fans who are fairly uncritical in their acceptance of anything their idols have done.  The Insignificance disc doesn’t sound like this to me.  Wilson is very good and even the tracks he didn’t think were good enough for general consumption at the time have a lot to offer.

Fans of prog rock probably already know about Porcupine Tree and either have this album or don’t like the band.  If you like psychedelic or prog rock and haven’t listened to Porcupine Tree, by all means check them out.  If you like any kind of rock that aspires to be more than a place holder in this week’s top ten, Signify is well worth your time.

“Dark Matter” from Signify

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06/02/2010 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] Tree had a long and convoluted history before its first proper album as a full-fledged band, Signify, was released in 1996.  The band began when Steven Wilson and a friend made up stories about a […]

    Pingback by Review: Porcupine Tree, Stars Die – The Delerium Years 1991-1997 « Tuned In To Music | 06/09/2010 | Reply


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