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Pretty, Powerful Progsters Produce

Porcupine Tree - Deadwing
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 26, 2006
Porcupine Tree

Review by Brad Walseth

Almost. In a release that is at times breathtaking in the summits it strives to ascend, the band - whose beginnings as a joke/imaginary band in the late '80s first allowed singer/guitarist Steven Wilson's craftsmanship its showcase - continue the trek as defined on their "In Absentia" album by jelling into a band no one would ever dismiss as a joke. Indeed, Deadwing - a soundtrack to a movie currently existing only in Wilson's mind - has been lauded as one of the best releases of 2005, and rightly so.

Sporting one of the most beguiling voices in rock today, Wilson's multi-tracked harmonies hover and glide on the thermals of sound produced by his guitar and the keyboards of Richard Barbieri (of the great '80s art rock band Japan) who makes a case for the renewed use (not misuse) of synthesizers in modern rock. Despite the moments of great beauty displayed here ("Glass Arm Shattering," the British single "Lazarus") don't be fooled into thinking this music to be weak as a tepid cup of Earl Grey; intrepid bassist Colin Edwin and hard hitting drummer Gavin Harrison provide plenty of punch with solid interplay at times reminiscent of math punk scallywags Helmet ("Shallow," "So Called Friend" and the title track). The combined forces of these disparate elements serves up a most enjoyable stew of sonic delights.

In fact, sonically this album reaches near perfection. Why then only 4 stars? The main thing holding the group back may be Wilson's uncanny inability to consistently write great and memorable melodies ("Arriving Somewhere (Not Here)" one of the few exceptions). His melodic themes are often good, often interesting, but seldom great - augmented at times by effects, arrangements, and a leaning toward occasional spoken word delivery that serves to hide the dearth of top-flight thematic melodic material. That said, Deadwing is a gratifying opportunity to hitch a ride with a band whose swooping arcs conduce to bless the listener with that desired epiphany of vertigo that only music of inspiration (as opposed to so-called "inspirational music") can birth.

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