wed 29/06/2022

Album: Porcupine Tree - Closure/Continuation | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Porcupine Tree - Closure/Continuation

Album: Porcupine Tree - Closure/Continuation

Progressive rock's cultiest heroes return with a leftfield fusion of old and new

Porcupine Tree: work in progress?Sony

Porcupine Tree’s members have said they don’t know if their 11th album and this autumn’s North American–European tour will conclude their 35-year career. If it does, it would be typical of the progressive rock trio – as averse to standing still as King Crimson – if they bowed out with a record that doesn't suggest a grand finale.

As its title hints, Closure/Continuation sounds like a work in progress.

Less dependent on singer-guitarist (and here bassist) Steven Wilson’s compositions than its predecessors, the project was jammed into life by him and drummer Gavin Harrison, and composed with keyboardist Richard Barbieri. The collaborative approach and the piecemeal secret recording of it over the last decade might explain why it has a looser feel than each of the four classics (In Absentia, Deadwing, Fear of a Blank Planet, The Incident) the combo released between 2002 and 2010. 

Most of the seven songs on the standard Closure/Continuation CD and vinyl editions (deluxe sets include instrumental versions of them and three bonus tracks) unfold organically, Wilson’s clear, melancholy vocals sometimes ignoring the melodies as his dystopian ruminations pour out. That imprecision is exciting. The familiar Porcupine Tree blend of reflective quietude and thunderous crises characterises the opener “Harridan”  – with its growling bass line, shouty singing, and crashing guitars – and “Of the New Day”, but the band’s metal explosions are less in evidence than before. 

“Rats Return”, a denunciation of tryants and despots (Trump isn’t mentioned but strongly inferred), features a snarling guitar (Crimson’s Red a likely touchstone) and an eerie falsetto so feminine it puts me in mind of “Johnny Remember Me”. Barbieri’s synthy soundscapes well up sinisterly on “Dignity” and “Herd Calling” – a stab of paranoia auguring a Western society reduced to the Wild West. “Walk the Plank” emphasises the textured electronic side of Porcupine Tree, but Wilson’s violent guitar is such a hallmark of their sound, it’s conspicuous by its absence.

Since Wilson dislikes Porcupine Tree’s prog categorization, it’s strange that Closure/Continuation should end on its proggiest track, the nearly 10-minute “Chimera’s Wreck”, as gorgeous a song as they’ve ever made, notwithstanding Wilson’s recurrent line “I’m afraid to be happy and I couldn’t care less if I was to die”. Initially it’s reminiscent of mid-Seventies Genesis (even Renaissance) with its “medieval” plucking, plaintive overdubbed singing, and ethereal electric piano, all prelude to a thumping guitar-stoked cavalry charge. Maybe a new category of one should be invented for Porcupine Tree – neo-nostalgic post-prog, or something – because they’re sui generis. Hopefully, this isn’t closure at all.

Steven Wilson’s clear, melancholy vocals sometimes ignore the melodies as his dystopian ruminations pour out

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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