Porcupine Tree's debut is really one big in-joke, which actually makes for a better reason to record something that pretends to be profoundly deep through and through. As released, it doesn't make mention of the tracks' origins as the supposed product of a mysterious cult psych/prog rock band, but the packaging and artwork (even the fonts) would make the Dukes of Stratosphear proud. Steven Wilson's singing is noticeably higher at points than it would be in later years -- chalk it up to his relative youth or a desire to sound appropriately wispy (or on the lovely "Nine Cats," like David Gilmour). On a sheer technical level, though, Wilson can't be beat. Recording and producing his material solo (outside of a couple of guest appearances) before the big '90s revolution in home recording quality, he easily reaches the depth and reach of bands who could spend many times more to reach the same sound. It really does sound like a full band jamming along to its own muse, not a constructed swathe of overdubs. Happily, it's not just ability on display, but actual art. There's plenty of shaggy-dog nutty humor -- "Jupiter Island" takes a perfectly groovy trip to said locale circa 1968, phased guitars and all, while the giddy goof "Linton Samuel Dawson" gleefully portrays a cool dude tripping through life and time just to "Escape...from the boredom of mankind." Then there's the spoken word whispering on "Space Transmission," which sounds like something Robert Calvert might have dreamed up on a particularly bad trip, or the very knowing Beatles lyrics quote on the über-trippy "Footprints." Meanwhile, the many instrumental pieces are simply wonderful, pastoral, ambient rambles, drum solo jams, and more. It may all be '70s-era Pink Floyd for a more knowing time, but as a genre exercise and on its own, On the Sunday of Life is still a great debut.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett