Review Summary: Porcupine Tree attempts to continue their trend of outstanding concept albums, but trip over their own feet in the process.
“The concept really came about one night when I was driving home. I saw a sign on the highway saying, ‘Police Incident,’ and I suddenly for whatever reason, I still don’t know exactly why, I started to dwell on the word ‘incident.’ It doesn’t actually tell you anything except that something
Following the release of the dense and spectacular concept album “Fear of a Blank Planet,” Steven Wilson and crew settled into a sweet spot. The band had virtually done nothing wrong in the past fifteen years or so, consistently delivering outstanding records that demonstrated enough originality to separate one from the other. Falling into the progressive genre, Porcupine Tree is instantaneously thrown in with the likes of Pink Floyd, and Genesis; both of which recorded immensely successful and complex concept albums. Like Rush however, Porcupine Tree had always been about the music. The spacey psychedelic ambience of “The Sky Moves Sideways” was evidence of this, as was the diverse and highly acclaimed effort in “In Absentia.” It has been clear that Porcupine Tree was musically a tremendous group, but was somewhat lacking in the lyrics department. Throughout the band’s career, Wilson had never seemed to grow as a lyricist, so it was evident why critics were skeptical about a Porcupine Tree concept album. And that’s where they were wrong. Both “Deadwing” and especially “Fear of a Blank Planet” were received with a great deal of praise, for the band delivered extravagant musical displays with enough decent lyrics to develop the concept. In 2009, Porcupine Tree released “The Incident” in which stumbled in comparison to its predecessors.
As noted by Steven Wilson, the concept for “The Incident” was created when it was least expected, while he was driving. An incident, as hinted by Wilson is generally referring to a horrific event, involving serious injuries or multiple deaths. Like “Fear of a Blank Planet,” “The Incident” takes shots at the media. Wilson uses the deaths of Michael Jackson and Princess Diana as examples, saying that the media always attempts to gain sympathy from the people, even if they never cared about the person’s career or life before. Taking it one step further, massive disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the current earthquake in Haiti bring about the same actions by the media, and we feel more compelled to say “that’s horrible” or contribute to relief efforts. “We can’t all be empathizing with every awful thing that happens in the world, otherwise we’ll all be walking around emotional wrecks,” said Wilson in an interview with The Aquarian.
Like The Who’s “Tommy,” “The Incident” is a rather straightforward concept that does not require a great deal of thought to reveal what it means. Essentially the album is a collection of personal experiences, dealing with tragedy and the passage of time. The title track is where the car crash takes place on the record, discussing the shattered metal and glass aftermath as well as the range of emotions felt. “When the world has gone to seed you’re so detached.” Although much or the album is fragmented and constructed of different experiences, Your Unpleasant Family
continues along the same lines as The Incident
. Your Unpleasant Family
is the anger associated with car accidents, “Your unpleasant family smashed up my car. Perfectly uncalled for.” This particular straightforward songwriting is what drags the record down, for it is neither intriguing nor cohesively developed.
Apart from the dreary portions of the record is the undeniable highlight Time Flies
. Outlining his life, Wilson presents a track that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the record, and almost every one of the band’s previous tracks. With a simple message to “Take whatever comes to you,” Time Flies
is dazzling from the acoustic entrance to the David Gilmour-esque leads. Unfortunately, the only other track on the record that even remotely compares is that of I Drive the Hearse
, which is a harrowing and sentimental piece. I Drive the Hearse
serves as a tremendous closer to the conceptual side of the record, topped off by a passionate and quite exceptional guitar solo.
“The Incident” is essentially not what it appears to be. An eighteen-track, two-disc record with a concept seems as though it would be ambitious and complex, but is neither of those things. The music is still as high-quality as expected from Porcupine Tree, but ultimately does not make up for the lack-luster songwriting and half-baked concept. “The Incident” is a hangover from “Fear of a Blank Planet” and a sign that the band has become a bit too comfortable with themselves. Time Flies
and I Drive the Hearse
are outstanding enough to add to the band’s list of exceptional songs, but on the whole the album fails at what it was intended to do.
The Blind House
Drawing the Line
I Drive the Hearse
Remember Me Lover