Voyage 34, by Porcupine Tree
Suggested by Stuart Taylor
It’s taken until Album 71 for the Randomizer to cough up an album by a band I’ve already reviewed.
IT’s going to happen again, although the amount of multiple-suggestion artists is surprisingly small. I’m actually looking forward to it. It’ll be fun to see if there are changes between albums, be they positive or negative.
I do have to draw the line at suggestion-spamming, though. I have veto power if anyone swings by and places every single album by their pet favourite band. I don’t care how excrementally happy Simply Red make you, I’m not listening to twelve bloody albums of Mick Hucknall’s soulless warblings, thank you very much.
Porcupine Tree’s other album review, for their 2002 release In Absentia, was largely positive. It ended with the following sentence…
“In Absentia is intriguing, and not without merit. I rate it 6/10, and I’d be happy to investigate more.”
Three days later, I get that very chance.
First thing I do is fire up the tracklist. There are immediate alarm bells. The album, over an hour long, doesn’t contain songs. It contains four phases.
Brilliant. I sense a noodly ambient concept toss-kettle looming large. Nevertheless, I’m committed to Doing This Thing, so I press play with a hopeful wince.
At first, Phase One is promising. There’s some spoken-word narration about drugs, leading into some mesmeric trance-like rock guitar that sounds uncannily like Pink Floyd. That continues for a while. Then a while more. Then, just as you think it’s going somewhere, it keeps going.
It feels like backing music, an underscore that should build to something epic, but the band have other ideas. There’s incremental change and subtle shifts, but it all takes so damn long. It smacks of self-indulgence, navel-gazing, and mind-numbing dullness. What starts as a pleasant and ambient groove soon becomes stale through incessant repetition.
Phases two and three are wildly similar. There’s a period in each where the music is neglected for a maladapted soundscape of noises, all plinks and plonks and throbbing white noise, again punctuated by more druggy narration. Then the Floyd guitar returns and there’s some joy, before it overstays its welcome once again.
Finally, we hit Phase 4, which decides to buck the trend by starting with the overbearing soundscape and drug narration, but steadfastly refusing to build to anything of change direction at all.
By the end of this, I was legitimately angry.
At first, this was quite promising. Phase One was enjoyable, at first. Then it descended into pretty much a checklist of everything that bores me senseless.
I’ll give this 3/10, for the Pink Floyd sound alone, and then gladly remove Porcupine Tree from my forest of further listening.