This album was a godsend. When I first heard it, eleven years ago, I was in the dumps — loved ones dead, family tectonics on the move, resentments bubbling up, old friends falling short, bluster and hot air — a hellhole in development, no end in sight. What to do, how to escape the vicious circle? Films and sports were a good escape, but they didn’t solve anything. Positive lit didn’t work — it was indistinguishable from hogwash, pap regurgitated in the face of reality to make believe life wasn’t as bad as it was. When everything collapses it’s hard to talk about the beauty of what’s to come.
But this album — rough, depressive, sharp as nails, uncompromising, true — was something else. Talk about resonance! Like medicine from another plane. Its truth shone darkly, inconvenient and unlaminated, pointing the way ahead. The feeling that others had gone through the same motions, to each their own, facing their own trials, sharing their narratives to remind others that no one’s alone, not even in isolation — what a kick!
This album, starting from the title and the cover art, all the way through to its music — six tracks on fire! a perfect album! — did wonders to my psychology. My recovery owes a lot to it.
Much has happened since then. Things are far from perfect, the ups and downs come and go, but they’re more manageable, easier to put in perspective. To say that this album has plenty to do with it isn’t an exaggeration. It has strengthened my outlook and influenced my writing over the years, and I’m amazed at how well it holds up. One of those gifts that keeps giving, its stark realism is as fresh and erudite and relevant as ever. Porcupine Tree are a phenomenon, perhaps too alternative and dark to make the charts with every album release, but their work endures, this album a landmark.
Click here for the original video of the title track (radio cut):
Click here for the full song:
Click here for the full album:
And click here for a real-reaction to one of their songs by two awesome dudes on YouTube. I watched it the other day and it all came rushing back: