Porcupine Tree
Lightbulb Sun


5.0
classic

Review

by YoYoMancuso USER (43 Reviews)
October 19th, 2012 | 87 replies | 3,123 views


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An incredible work that shows the vast amount of ideas and amazing gift of songwriting that Steven Wilson possessed in the late 1990's. A must-hear.

14 of 14 thought this review was well written

My last review contained an overlong introduction so I'll just cut to the chase this time. Steven Wilson is a freaking genius, at least when he tries. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his main project, the progressive essential Porcupine Tree. After completing their contract with Delerium records and creating 4 fantastic studio albums that founded new boundaries for psychedelic and space rock with its prog-pop twist, Wilson was in a bit of a jam when it came to writing songs. On Signify, he had pretty much accomplished everything he wanted do with the ideas he was working with at the time, so he decided it was time to redefine the band's sound. After signing to new label Snapper Records, Wilson began to focus more on the pop sensibilities he had been experimenting with, thus creating the art-rock opus Stupid Dream. This album was everything that everyone loves about the band: fantastic vocal harmonies, top-notch drumming, tight bass lines, and lush acoustics. However, once again, Wilson was in a corner. How he had accomplished so much with just these 2 albums dumbfounded both fans and Wilson himself, and the way he honed the sound established on Stupid Dream for such an amazing effort like Lightbulb Sun is yet to be discovered.

I'm in the small minority that believes that this is Porcupine Tree's best work to date. Bridging the gap between the band's spacey progressive past and their metallic, riffy future, Lightbulb Sun handpicks the best things about Signify and Stupid Dream and melds them into one jaw-dropping, life-changing, ultra-British package. Utilizing the unsettling soundscapes and tight instrumentals of Signify ("Last Chance To Evacuate", "Hatesong", "Russia On Ice") and the bright, poppy melodies of Stupid Dream (title track, "Shesmovedon", "The Rest Will Flow") this album is an amalgam of influences, and a melting pot of ideas that begs to be heard. And boy, does it deliver.

The guitar tones on this album are nothing short of heavenly. While the guitars on their previous album left you feeling relaxed and just enjoying the sounds, they were a bit unsettling, which was effective but took a bit away from the overall experience. Lightbulb Sun's guitars invite you in, putting on an amazing show, to soothe the ears and delight the spirit. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the opening seconds of the album: the opening fingerpicked hook of the title track made me crack a pretty big smile the first time I heard it. Drawing influences from the Britpop scene of the time, Wilson puts his own signature tones and melodies into the hook, creating a palpable feeling of euphoria and joy that will course through the veins of anyone hearing this album for the first time. Other examples of this come on tracks like "Hatesong", which features some addictive heavy chords that were unseen in the band's repertoire before this point, and "Last Chance To Evacuate", which features a stuttering banjo for the first half of the song, and a delightfully strummed acoustic for the second, which slowly pieces together the spacey puzzle of this 5-minute musical monolith.

The bass is equally impressive-before In Absentia Colin's bass lines were actually audible, and believe it or not they actually mattered in the songwriting (I know, I was surprised as well). The main purpose of the bass on this record is to create an atmosphere of any kind. When Wilson requires an emotionally effective piece, Edwin's there to back him up, with his emotive lines on "Where We Would Be" and "Hatesong". "Hatesong" is Edwin's defining moment-the bass line makes this song, countering the heavenly guitar hooks to create a grumbling, descent-into-madness-esque atmosphere that will suck you in like a black hole. Combining Edwin with the frantic dynamics and technical prowess of the band's original drummer Chris Maitland rounds out a technically and emotively impressive rhythm section. Maitland has several standout moments here: his frantic hand-drumming on "Four Chords That Made A Million" creates a psychotic feel for the song's introduction, while his technical flams and cascading rolls on the title track lead into a powerful climax with ease. Edwin and Maitland own "Russia On Ice", a 13-minute epic that easily stands as one of Wilson's best all-time songs. The swelling dynamics and chilling feelings the song gives off would not be nearly as effective without Maitland and Edwin's stellar performances here. Edwin's bass effects create a twisted sound that plays off of Maitland's roaring snare tone and low-key cymbal breaks.

Wilson's vocals here are nothing short of mind-blowing. His lyrics are still not amazing, but they don't matter when his voice sounds this damn good. His hushed, tortured voice coasting over the opening hook of the title track is an amazing beginning to what can only be described as an awe-inspiring record. He still loves to layer-and it packs quite the punch here. The deeply embedded vocal layers on "Shesmovedon", "The Rest Will Flow", and "Where We Would Be" all give off inexplicably happy feelings despite how dark the songs can be at times. However, given Wilson's magnificent songwriting skills, I shouldn't be all that surprised.

However, the real star of this record, and what makes this record so damn amazing is the keyboard work of one Richard Barbieri. His piano parts range from atmospheric (title track) to wonderfully weird ("How Is Your Life Today?") and even just terrifying ("Hatesong"). "How Is Your Life Today?" is easily one of the oddest Porcupine Tree compositions ever. The whole thing is 3 minutes of Richard Barbieri scaring the sh*t out of the listener with a piano part resembling something you'd hear in the circus from Hell, and a hammered dulcimer being tapped at over some beauteous vocal harmonies. The atmosphere these keyboard parts engulf you in is difficult to describe, but you'll know exactly what I can't bring myself to say in coherent words once you hear them. It's a bit cliché, but these really do have to be heard to be believed.

In short, Lightbulb Sun is a masterpiece by an amazing songwriter who sadly got lost listening to bad music and taking pointers from bad songwriters. Hopefully he recovers in the future and we can hear another amazing album like this one.

5/5.

Recommended tracks (Asterisk signifies best song):
Lightbulb Sun
How Is Your Life Today?
Shesmovedon
Last Chance To Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled
Hatesong*
Russia On Ice



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user ratings (1104)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
YoYoMancuso
October 18th 2012



10116 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

review was requested by menawati.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
October 18th 2012



4337 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album is actually really great. Review is boss as always. POS'd.

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
October 18th 2012



19512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review but russia on ice > hatesong imo

pos'd

Digging: Cult Leader - Nothing for Us Here

YoYoMancuso
October 18th 2012



10116 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks Hernan

Insurrection I felt the same way for a while but after I realized how amazing Signify is Hatesong just kind of hit me

Chortles
October 18th 2012



17509 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

sweet review

such a great album, my second favorite from these guys i think, behind stupid dream

Digging: Chico Buarque - Construo

YoYoMancuso
October 18th 2012



10116 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks man, stupid dream is really good as well

breakingthefragile
October 18th 2012



2935 Comments


Great review dude. Russia on Ice is epic to the max.

YoYoMancuso
October 18th 2012



10116 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks alex

Chortles
October 18th 2012



17509 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

love the title track so much

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
October 18th 2012



14492 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

damn, nice job man, I sorta meant it as a throwaway comment when i said 'review it then' but u delivered big time, pos

Digging: Ian Anderson - Homo Erraticus

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
October 18th 2012



18612 Comments


good review man POS I need to hear these guys.

Digging: Somos - Temple of Plenty

Ire
October 19th 2012



41453 Comments


album after this is poo but so far this is swee

PistolPete
October 19th 2012



3462 Comments


their one album post-stupid dream that i can't stand, but you wrote well nuthin wrong with the review just don't agree with that rating #imsawry

Digging: Jolly - The Audio Guide to Happiness (Part 1)

Chortles
October 19th 2012



17509 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

sweet

Ire
October 19th 2012



41453 Comments


sweet

Chortles
October 19th 2012



17509 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

agreed

ThunderNeutral21
October 19th 2012



3864 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

2ND BEST PT

Ire
October 19th 2012



41453 Comments


no you are wrong tho i havent heard this yet

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
October 19th 2012



5612 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome album.

I hope that Steve will revisit this period in his artistic course, where Porcupine Tree were his sole concern.

Digging: Mekong Delta - In A Mirror Darkly

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
October 19th 2012



1776 Comments


This album has the best of both worlds from PT. 'Lightbulb Sun' is an amazing album, like Voivod said. Great review, just a couple of things to note:

"putting on an amazing to show"-I think you mean "putting on an amazing performance"

"The two band together to singlehandedly own "Russia On Ice"-This doesn't make much sense, I would rephrase into something like "Both members of the band completely own Russia on Ice".



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