Porcupine Tree

Lightbulb Sun

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Some older fans looked askance at Lightbulb Sun, feeling it was verging on overt commercialism (and admittedly, the near power ballad solo on "Where We Would Be" is a bit odd!). Then again, given Wilson's own explorations of avant-garde pop with No-Man, who's to say why a slightly more radio-friendly stance can't work? "Shesmovedon" may have been a single, but there's no question who wrote and performed it -- the elegant cascade of backing vocals on the chorus shows that much. Certainly Wilson hasn't turned into Max Martin or anything -- it's still very much Porcupine Tree, in its lyrical turns of phrase and general sense of exploration. One of the best tracks on the album is the brilliantly titled "Four Chords That Made a Million," a barbed cut on some unnamed "emperor in new clothes" beset by a "moron with a cheque book." The lead riff is a majestic hit of flange and feedback, while the hints of sitar and Indian percussion give the song even more attractive heft. But there's a definite bent towards calmer art pop throughout Lightbulb Sun -- those who preferred the sheer surge of Stupid Dream will find this album tamer in comparison. Still, it's hard to resist the beautiful, understated tension about a fractured friendship or relationship on "Feel So Low" or the gentle, string-touched roll and build of "The Rest Will Flow," flat out two of Wilson's best tunes anywhere. Those who prefer the lengthy explorations won't be disappointed, though -- "Hatesong" unfolds its sharp message over eight minutes and the string-swept, slow time explosion of "Russia on Ice" over 13. Slyest title of the bunch -- "Last Chance to Leave the Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled," which samples the videotape made by the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult before its mass suicide in 1997.

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