Much has been made of the song-cycle approach of disc 1 of Porcupine Tree’s new album, The Incident, and how Steven Wilson wanted the album to be treated as a whole.
It certainly pays off listening to Disc 1 in isolation, and in order, but some tracks do stand out in as songs you could listen to on their own, especially The Blind House and the two most melancholic tracks on the album, Kneel and Disconnect and I Drive the Hearse.
Kneel and Disconnect is a gentle piano and guitar driven piece, that seems to refer to the younger Wilson leaving his steady job and choosing music as his full-time career.
I Drive the Hearse has already become one of my favourite Porcupine Tree tracks. There is a real pastoral feel to this track, with some beautiful layered synths and mellotron from Richard Barbieri.
“You were always my mistake”
As a long-standing Porcupine Tree fan, it feels as if this is the album where SW has really found his voice – the chorus of The Blind House is supremely confident and the close-knit harmonies on Kneel and Disconnect totally hit the mark.
Some sections repeat throughout The Incident, with a couple of recycled musical motifs and repeated or similar lyrics in a couple of songs, but this is not laziness, rather a way of joining the pieces together to make one complete song cycle, especially as there is no apparent over-arching lyrical theme to the album.
The are references to SW’s childhood and musical upbringing throughout the album, but especially in Time Flies (The Beatles & Hendrix mentions in the tracks lyrics and the Pink Floyd musical allusion). Great Expectations was mentioned in an online interview as referencing a childhood friend whose life followed a troubled path.
“Hey there’s you, with placid eyes
Oblivious to what’s to come”
Drawing the Line features a haunting sample and an uplifting radio-friendly chorus that will surely work wonders live.
“Recording all my problems onto memory cards”
The lyrics to the title track of The Incident were apparently inspired by a fatal road traffic accident that was described by a police sign as an “incident”, which is a cold, impersonal way of describing something so damaging and catastrophic. Musically the track is far removed from any other Porcupine Tree song, and maybe owes a sonic debt to Trent Reznor via Berlin era Bowie.
Time Flies was made available as an edit in Classic Rock magazine prior to the album’s release, and if you read fan feedback on the various PT forums, wasn’t universally accepted. The version on the album that weighs in at a healthy 11 minutes and 41 seconds is the real deal though, and it feels like the centre-piece of the album, lifting the mood after the darkness of the 8 tracks that preceded it. Now this IS what I would refer to as Classic Rock.
Octane Twisted darkens the mood again, and reveals its charms after repeated listening, and is one that will surely appeal to new fans that the band picked up from Deadwing onwards.
The Incident was clearly made to be listened to in isolation (you wouldn’t read a book or watch a film whilst checking your Facebook messages so why do this with music) and in the order it was sequenced, and it does sound amazing in 5.1, but over time I think I will add key tracks to my ipod playlist (no, this is simply verbotten in PT Land, what am I saying, forgive me!)
I must admit to being disappointed with Disc 2, as the songs just aren’t as strong as those on the main disc. Maybe its me, but Flicker is a bit too PT by numbers for me. Black Dahlia is the strongest track of the 4, and the only track from Disc 2 that I return to regularly. Remember Me Lover seems to be lacking the magic of the tracks on the main disc, and whilst its probably a good song to hear live, I don’t choose to play it often. I think Disc 2 suffers in comparison to the quality of the main part of the album. But this is only a minor criticism, as this album is slowly becoming one of my favourites from the band.
The limited edition special edition of the album (the most expensive album, by far, that I have ever bought, so my credit card statement regularly tells me!) comes with the 2 disc CD of The Incident plus a stunning 5.1 mix on DVD, and a 116 page hardback book that includes lyrics and Lasse Hoile photography, and a 48 page softback book of drawings inspired by the album by Hajo Mueller. Carl Glover, who produces the excellent artwork for no-man, is responsible for the graphic design.
Tracklisting: CD1 – The Incident: Occam’s Razor / The Blind House /
Great Expectations / Kneel and Disconnect / Drawing the Line / The Incident / Your Unpleasant Family / The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train / Times Flies / Degree Zero of Liberty / Octane Twisted / The Seance / Circle of Manias / I Drive the Hearse
CD2: Flicker / Bonnie the Cat / Black Dahlia / Remember Me Lover