The Incident

Porcupine Tree

Roadrunner, 2009

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Porcupine Tree, the joke that became a band, has become one of the most exciting and original bands at work today. Great artists evolve. They grow and change, and in doing so hopefully get better (or at least stay vital). PT has done this better than most bands ever could. The most common comparison one hears when evaluating PT is Pink Floyd. It’s a logical one if you take a thousand-foot view of their respective careers. Trace a line from the Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn to Division Bell and you see such evolution, progression in its truest form. To plot founder Steven Wilson’s path from his atmospheric, psychedelic origins to The Incident, one sees a similar arc, an artist constantly challenging himself and expanding his vision.

Wilson has always shunned the label of progressive rock – or any sort of categorization for that matter. “Progressive to me means evolution, it’s not a label I want applied to my work,” he says. “Adding new ideas and stretching your own boundaries, that’s progressive to me. I don’t want a label; I don’t want to be the new Pink Floyd. I want to be the new Porcupine Tree, or the old Porcupine Tree… not someone else’s shadow.” He’s achieved that by any measure. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One of the keys to my personal fascination with the band is that they create complete albums, not collections of singles. Wilson still holds to the ideal of the strength of a cohesive album that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Fortunately for him, and us, those parts end up being great songs in their own right, and The Incident is no exception. It’s a true win-win situation.

The two-disc album follows that code perfectly. The entire first disc encompasses the fifteen-song cycle that makes up the title piece. Wilson weaves a typically (for him) dense and sprawling concept that is both engaging and inscrutable lyrically, but musically is a captivating, energetic listen that holds its focus through the myriad textures and themes that flow in an out. He never spoon-feeds you a story; instead, he doles out images and feelings, mood, and color to create a feeling of place and personalities. Musically, Wilson builds largely on the more aggressive style featured on his recent releases Deadwing and Fear Of A Blank Planet on tracks like “Drawing The Line” and “Circle Of Manias,” but effortlessly insinuates some quiet melancholy and a little psychedelia into the mix on the atmospheric “Kneel and Disconnect” and “Yellow Windows Of The Evening Train.” Rounding out disc two are four additional tracks, highlighted by the excellent closer “Remember Me Lover.”

Wilson always treads a lot of ground musically. As is his norm, the key is in the exquisitely layered sound and pristine production. Case in point is the centerpiece track of The Incident, the expansive “Time Flies.” Wilson and keyboardist Richard Barbieri create a cyclic, pulsing groove of acoustic guitar and gentle keys, which Wilson uses as a springboard for atmospheric flourishes and strong chorus. Throughout the album, his mix flows from heavy metal blast beats to striking melodic passages and ambient soundscapes, creating ever-shifting spaces and moods. The beauty of the end result is something experimental and challenging that still remains accessible to anyone with an ear for great music. So far this is one of the finest releases of 2009, another bright jewel in the crown of one the most creative and vital bands of our time.

Rating: A

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© 2009 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Roadrunner, and is used for informational purposes only.