Album Review: Stupid Dream (Porcupine Tree)

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Lilen Pautasso reviews one of Porcupine Tree’s most critically acclaimed albums, Stupid Dream. Regarded as just one of the bands many popular releases, the album was released twice and features prominently as a prog-rock music icon. This review was originally featured on Puluche.com: http://puluche.com/reviews/porcupine-tree-stupid-dream-97-5/

There is no doubt that Porcupine Tree have firmly cemented their place in the annals of progressive rock. As such, there exists no better testament to their exponential rise to international fame than the critically acclaimed Stupid Dream.

Originally released in March 1999, the album was then re-released in March 2006 due to booming demand and the immense success of In Absentia (2002) and Deadwing (2005). As long-time fans would likely agree, this album varies quite distinctively from other Porcupine Tree albums both musically and lyrically.

Songs such as “Even Less,” “Pure Narcotic” and “Stranger by the Minute” are unique rock fusions that embody catchy tunes and riffs, together with notably creative lyrical accompaniment. Dealing with anecdotal experiences as a child (“Piano Lessons”) through to the demanding life of a musician (“This is No Rehearsal”), Stupid Dream represents a multifaceted journey to stardom and international recognition. It is an ideological representation of, not only the band itself, but a music industry that is demanding, alienating, euphoric and hazardous.

Lyrically, the album is ripe with unique and often cryptic storytelling. Porcupine Tree mastermind and founder, Steven Wilson, rarely escapes praise from fans and critics for his songwriting and songs such as “Even Less,” “Don’t Hate Me” and “Baby Dream in Cellophane” are ideal examples of Wilson’s creative vision.

Wonderfully executed through lyrical intrigue and ambiguity, the exemplar songwriting can be found scattered throughout the album. Notably, some examples include: “In the rain in cellophane/Pale dogs and demigods/They won’t bring me down/The clocks go ’round, they never stop” (“Baby Dream in Cellophane”) and “I may just waste away from doing nothing/But you’re a martyr for even less, for even less” (“Even Less”)

There is no question that the artistic vision of the band has been wonderfully executed on this album. From the composition to the track layout, Stupid Dream is a showpiece item in a notably brilliant Porcupine Tree discography. It brings together the energetic, pop-rock tracks with the soft and almost orchestral soundscapes more familiar to Porcupine Tree long-timers. Whatever a listener’s interest, this album is a “must have” for any lover of unique musical escapes.

Commendations

Perhaps the most wonderful facet of the album is the dynamic collaboration of instruments. From piano interludes to jazz-like saxophone bursts, Stupid Dream encompasses the beauty and emotive power of each instrument and fuses them in one flawless and engrossing composition.

Standing out as arguably the best track on the album, “Tinto Brass” is a magnificent composition that embodies elements of rock, prog, jazz and psychedelia. It is a testament to the progressive rock genre’s predecessors and a salute to the new ways in which music can create interesting soundscapes and auditory hybrids. Complete with repetitive sound grabs, domineering bass lines and a flute centerpiece, the song is a perfect example of Porcupine Tree’s musical identity.

Next Steps

Reception for the album was initially very positive, with the interest in the album growing exponentially following the success of later Porcupine Tree albums. Billboard praised the album, saying it “contained some of Wilson’s best lyrics” while other critics praised the songwriting and musical dynamics of the album.

Whilst a notable hit amongst fans of the band, the band did receive some critical recognition when, in 2005, the album was ranked number 339 in Rock Hard magazine’s book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.

While the band is not “officially” broken up, after the supporting tour of their last release The Incident, the band members went their separate ways to form side projects.

Band leader Steve Wilson’s solo career has been most notable, with his latest and third solo album, The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) (2013), receiving worldwide praise throughout the progressive rock community and landing atop most ‘best-of’ chart listings, even outside that genre.

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