It caused a stir when it was announced: Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree and No-Man fame) was to release his first-ever full-length solo album. The first question to pop up was: why? After a couple decades of activity under his belt, and two handfuls of bands and projects past and present (including several solo outfits, like Bass Communion), why would he release an album under his own name, and what would that album be like? Well, as it turned out, Insurgentes is basically a Porcupine Tree album in which Wilson wrote all the songs and made all the decisions, including the one to not include all current members of Porcupine Tree in the project. Is that a problem, fans might ask? Not at all. In fact, Insurgentes is an excellent slab of progressive-tinged alternative rock, and a logical next step from Fear of a Blank Planet, PT's last album at this point. The songwriting is sharp and punchy in the short tracks, and atmospheric and contrasted in the longer ones (the wall-of-guitar entry in "No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun"), with maybe a tad bit more input from Wilson's experimental project Bass Communion filtering through in the textures department. Despite featuring only Wilson and PT drummer Gavin Harrison, the leadoff track, "Harmony Korine," would have been perfect as a hit single for the next Porcupine Tree record. "Abandoner" is Wilson at his creepy best: stark electronica beat, aerial vocals, and twisted ambience (enhanced in the 5.1 surround mix version by a tricky placement of acoustic guitar attack and backward effect). Theo Travis guests on flute on this track. Other guest musicians include Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess delivering a stunning piano solo in "No Twilight Within the Courts of the Sun," King Crimson bassist Tony Levin, singer Clodagh Simonds (of Fovea Hex) adding wordless vocals to "Significant Other," and Michiyo Yagi on koto (a Japanese traditional zither-like instrument) on the title track. Accessible yet boundary-pushing (in a pop/rock format), Insurgentes is one of Wilson's finer moments. And it must be heard in 5.1 surround sound for its full richness to be experienced, as the man has become a master of the surround mix.
AllMusic Review by François Couture
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2