This is my first Porcupine Tree album. I don’t know what I expected — early ’70s-era King Crimson reunited, maybe, based on the “brave new prog” hype — but this certainly wasn’t it. And that turned out to be a fine thing.
As near as I can tell, there isn’t a happy song on Stupid Dream . Lots about lost love, lost innocence, dead bodies, even nuclear war and suicide, but no shiny happy people. “Stranger by the Minute” is about as close as it comes, with its satiny smooth guitars buoyed like dreams across the surface of a toy pond on a cloudless green day; at least here the song’s hero is just getting stranger, not dying, and accepting the fact with good grace (and maybe a little humor).
But in the best English tradition, along with the self-deprecation and the hopeless fatalism come some beautiful, if terrifying, visions. “Don’t Hate Me” has some of the best of these, with its swirling psychedelic guitar and synth opening, darkly poetic lyrics, laid-back flute floating prog-like over bass and drums, and sax kicking the song into an awesome groove, fading to a haze of confusion and loneliness. Or the opening “Even Less,” which starts off with a string orchestra throbbing like a hangover before guitar drums bass slam in, then drift away, trying and failing to fill a vast, empty space inside with metal-esque raucous noise, then giving up, going slow and sad and quiet, wondering why, but getting no answers except a meaningless string of numbers monotonously intoned at the end.
Not exactly pretty pictures, but well worth seeing.
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