Review Summary: What an interesting and bewildering debut for the progressive titans.
First of all, before listening to this everyone should know that this record is a joke. This wasn't intended to be as serious as Porcupine Tree's succeeding records. However, the fact of the matter is that most people do not listen to music for a laugh and that is one of the record's biggest downfalls. The record tries to be witty and comical and sometimes it really does bring some truly funny moments. Unfortunately, most of the time it is just Wilson thinking that he is funny and the moment actually seems quite forced. The record happens to also be poorly produced, extremely weird, and tediously bloated clocking in at over seventy five minutes. Rest assured, if there are any people looking to get into this band, On the Sunday of Life is not the smartest choice to start with.
The production of this debut is another one of it's biggest flaws even considering that Steve Wilson is the mastermind behind it. There are many times where the percussion sounds incredibly muffled and the same goes for the strings and guitar work scattered throughout the record. Many of these songs have the potential to be something great, but the overall sound really brings them down. "Jupiter Island" and "The Nostalgia Factory" both could have been fantastic pop songs, but they are completely ruined by the strange effect Wilson put on his vocals. He makes his voice somewhat high pitched so it is almost as if he sounds like inhaled helium.
Not only is the production an immense problem, the album's overall strange and trippy vibe is extremely overwhelming at many points. The weird part is that the funny and strange parts tend to work hand-in-hand. Take "Space Transmission" for example. It's only a man with a sinister yet comical voice whispering to us about how he is trapped on an uncharted planet and other nonsense. The part where the man says that they consumed all of the instrument is absolutely ridiculous. The whole record is bursting at the seams with bewildering filler songs that are either unnecessary ambient songs or poorly done progressive interludes. Basically the album could have at least a half hour shorter which really says something.
Despite the fact that the record consists of mostly mediocre tracks that could easily be skipped, some of them are actually quite decent. "Radioactive Toy" is the Porcupine Tree that we have all come to love because it is actually a surprisingly serious song. Wilson chillingly sings about a town being destroyed by an atomic bomb over some nice guitar work and a very strong Pink Floyd vibe. "Nine Cats" is one of the better comical songs on the record and if the production is improved, it could easily be right at home on Stupid Dream or Lightbulb Sun. "Begonia Seduction Scene" is the prettiest track on the record because of its beautiful acoustic guitar and soothing ambiance in the background. The strongest aspect of that song is how it is beautiful without even trying as opposed to the title track which is disappointingly forced. "This Long silence" also showcases some very well done guitar work for Wilson and the album's closer also capitalizes on a more King Crimson like atmosphere while incorporating some tribal drums and a wide variety of other instruments. These songs may be very exceptional, but sadly at the same time they are not anywhere near memorable enough to save the record.
On the Sunday of Life is a staggeringly strange trip. It is understood what Wilson was going for with this record: an attempt at a joke, but it is not a good one. The experience is quite intriguing, but for all of the wrong reasons. There are not many aspects of the record that work on it because it is an overall tedious listen that can really get on the nerves after a while. Granted it is not the worst record ever made, it is easily the worst record in Porcupine Tree's lengthy discography. If anyone made the terrible mistake of starting with this record, have no fear. The band becomes something truly special and memorable in the long run.