Review Summary: An overly-grandiose melting pot of almost every genre of music known to man that is only burdened by it's dated sound.
Even if you’re not a Porcupine Tree fan, you have to admit they have the uncanny ability to consistently change their sound with each album. Most bands ride the wave of one sound into critical and popular acclaim, but not Steven Wilson’s pet project. No, Wilson’s pet project Porcupine Tree is the most quickly changing, ever evolving, and always unexpected band around today. Throughout Porcupine Tree’s lengthy career, each album has brought something new to the table. From the overly experimental and strange ‘On the Sunday of Life’… to their heavy, post-rock influenced masterpiece ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’, each album has changed the gameplan for Britain’s best unknown band.
‘The Sky Moves Sideways’, while being Porcupine Tree’s third release, was a massive step up in quality for Porcupine Tree. Moving past the electronic ‘Up the Downstair’, Porcupine Tree took a Pink Floyd ‘Wish You Were Here’ type approach. Make two massive epics, split them in half, one at the beginning and one at the end. Add highly progressive solos and rhythms, and keep the album flowing by putting some truly excellent tracks in the middle. Honestly, I’m a big fan of ‘epic’ ever-changing songs, so ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’ was a great release for me. I’m also a big Pink Floyd fan, which made ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’ even better. Because, honestly, while it’s good, it sounds a lot like Pink Floyd.
But that’s not much of an issue. At all. ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’ is really, really good. Their best pre-Stupid Dream, easily. From the massive ‘The Sky Moves Sideways Phase I’, Wilson introduces deep atmospheres, Floyd like riffs and electronics, and an overall feel of ‘Floyd’. For about eight minutes, the song really feels like a Floyd imitation, but Wilson quickly introduces some ‘Up the Downstair’ like rhythmic electronics into the mix. Backed by some mushy bass, you really get the feeling as if Wilson poured acid over the bassist’s amp, setting the stage for a nice R&B-like rhythm to back it up. The song quickly speeds back up, still led by ‘Up the Downstair’ electronics as Wilson roars out randomness in the background. Suddenly, all goes silent. Tiny violins come chiming in backing the beautiful atmospherics led by Wilson’s ever-present guitar excellence.
A mix of Pink Floyd like grandiose, rhythmic electronics, experimentalness, and complete epic quietness may seem as if it’s Porcupine Tree’s gameplan, but they’ll quickly prove you wrong. Not only is this is one of the only progressive rock albums I can listen to the whole way through without skipping a track, each track grabs you from the start and doesn’t let you go. Mostly the allure comes from Wilson’s gameplan of not allowing you to predict what’s coming next. Wilson will throw at you some latin rhythms and riffs, video game soundtrack-influenced synth and keyboard tech, and beautifully subdued acoustic grandiose. The album is simply unpredictable and somehow works perfectly. The album seems so mellow and meloncholy, it’s complete bliss.
But not only is the music great, Wilson shows off his more subdued vocals in tracks like ‘Dislocated Day’ and ‘The Moon Touches Your Shoulder’. For the tracks, the standard Porcupine Tree song structure is still in order, just a bit shaken up by longer progressive solos and sections, and shortened verses. The best part is, though, that this isn’t mindless rock. There is some deeply moving, original chorus lines that aren’t cliché in the single most idea of the word. The lyrics are simplistic and easy to understand, but have a deeper structure and meaning to them. “Dislocated day/I will find a way/to make you say/the name of your forgiver.”. The ability to merge such a simplistic yet deep line with such meaningless, monotone-like vocals somehow is pulled off successfully, and even more by the guitar riff that follows the line.
There’s a few issues here, though. Even though Porcupine Tree tries to modernize Pink Floyd, they sound a bit dated on this album. The riffs and solos sound very Roger Waters, and the rhythmic electronics sound very 80s. Wilson’s vocals seem trite and uninspired, and lack the emotion of later classics like Lazarus and Anesthetize. The guitar work, while still excellent, isn’t as polished and refined as it is in, once again, later releases. Sometimes the album gets a bit repetitive, but it still manages to keep you interested. Some of the stuff sounds a bit too
much like classic 70s progressive rock, and some of it feels really ripped off. But somehow, Wilson pulled excellence out of nothing. ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’ was an album that was supposed
to be bad from the get-go, but wasn’t. It was epic, grandiose, and excellent in it’s own way, just like any other Porcupine Tree album.