First off I’m reviewing the reissue of “Up the Downstair” which was released June 21st, 2005. The original was released in 1993. The Difference between the reissue and the original is that in the original he recorded the drums with a drum machine and not a real drummer. He then hired a drummer to re-record the track on real drum instead of a drum machine. The original drummer said he tried to stay as true to the original as possible which means that the drums are fairly simple beats. Nothing fancy. This drummers name was Gavin Harrison. Wilson also rerecorded some of the guitar parts as well, mostly the sloppy ones that he didn’t approve of. Like the acoustic guitars.
This was not technically porcupine tree’s 1st album but according to Steven Wilson (producer/song writer) this was there first album, because “On the Sunday of Life” was just a compilation of his favorite tracks from the DIY cassettes he made in 1988-91. Originally every instrument was played by Steven Wilson. But as I said before on the reissue, the drums are rerecorded. The band “porcupine tree” was basically all Steven Wilson up until the end of 1993 when he started performing live with Richard Barbieri, and Colin Edwin who helped with the album but were not official band member at the time of the original recordings. “Up the Downstair” was originally supposed to be a double album, but eventually brought down to a single album. Three of the other songs that were supposed to be on the double album but were discarded, you can hear on “Staircase Infinities”. Along with 2 new tracks. Steven was going for a atmospheric sound on this album. There are 3 filler tracks with talking from a woman named Suzanne J. Barbieri.
What You Are Listening To
First track on the album. Basically just a into track. Just sounds in the background. No real music here. But at the end somebody saying “what you’re listening to are musicians performing pshicadelic(sp?) Music under the influence of a mind boggling chemical called…”
Pretty normal Porcupine Tree song. Nothing special. A catchy chorus. In the middle of the song there is a guitar solo. Pretty short one. Not one of my favorites on the album. I could see it as being a single though. The second solo is much better than the first. Not in speed, but in melody. Lengthy solo with some low vocals in the background. Steven Wilson isn’t known as a speedy guitar player, more of a good solo writer. Which is not a bad thing in any way.
Monuments Burn Into Moments
Another filler track with no music. Just noise.
My favorite track on the album. Being exactly 7 minutes long its actually shorter than that because the ending is nothingness. Beginning is some soft guitar and some noise in the background but mostly just Steven Wilson’s vocals. Then the drums, guitar and bass come in. couple of little fill solo’s all around this track until the real one comes in. At the 3 minute mark everything stops except for some light bass. A extremely slow guitar comes in with slowly strummed chords. Bass and guitar only play for some time with some of Wilson’s vocals added in towards the end, until the drums come back in. This is the best part of the song. With a guitar solo, And the drums slowly building up speed and intensity over a 1:30 time frame. I’m assuming the drums were not originally like this in the 1993 release because it would be hard to do that on a drum machine. Good addition if this is true though.
Up The Downstair
Title track. Entirely instrumental unless you consider the talking in the beginning by the woman to be vocals. Starts off with drums then a bass line comes in. followed by a identical guitar riff. Goes back and forth with guitar and no guitar for awhile. Good keyboards in this one as well. Guitar doesn’t come in until 3:30. the goes away again, with the same bass line and heavy constant beat of the bass drum. The guitar comes back in playing the same thing as before. Everything stops at about 6:45 with just keyboard effects, and the same creepy woman vocals again. Then the sound builds up for about a minute then ends, with also ending the song. I though this song didn’t need to be as long as it was, really no need for it. Not a stand out track for me. The second instrumental was much better I thought.
Not Beautiful Anymore
This another Instrumental but is much shorter. Starts off with a basic drumbeat and bass again, until the guitar plays a identical guitar riff with the bass. At 2:06, everything stops, and the same lady talks again, then a short guitar solo starts it back up, then back into the same guitar and bass riff as played in the first half of the song. Nothing special about this song either.
Filler track. No talking or anything just noise.
Great song. Almost a intro the Burning sky. Although burning sky is a instrumental. This song has vocals. With lightly strummed acoustic guitars and drums. At 1:05 you hear a very very catchy guitar solo. I love this solo. You will also hear it again on the next song. This shows you do not need speed to solo. Steven Wilson can shred though for sure, but he goes for the melody more than the speed. Greet song clocking just under 3 minutes.
Another Instrumental. My favorite instrumental on the album. Pretty long song. 11:36 minutes long. Comes in with a guitar riff that is played the same as the into to ac/dc’s thunderstruck. With the pull-offs to a open string. This goes on for awhile with some keyboard effects later on. A solo bust out while the same intro guitar goes on in the background. Again with melody not speed by Wilson. Although he does show some of his chops later in the song. At about 4:50 everything stops and all you hear is the sound of a tick tock of a clock with some guitar effects going on. This goes on for quite awhile then a slowly strummed guitar comes in, shortly after the drums and the same into riff starts back up. At about 8 minutes that solo, from the song before is played again. Well deserved too because it is a thing of beauty. Great solo. Nothing special with speed, just real catchy. Jimmy page always said he likes solo’s that he can sing, that is exactly what this solo is. Fun to listen to. Everything basically repeats one more time to make the 11 minute masterpiece. With it ending with some heavy banging.
Another great song. This song is one of the songs Steven Wilson says that he like the most on the album. Especially after the re-issue. Starting off with the tic-tock sound again and a keyboard effects of the basic tone. With the single strummed guitar playing. Stevens vocals are a step up on this song. Really easy listening. Good lead guitar as well. Not much guitar during the singing parts. Really just a beautiful song. If I was going to pick a single from this album it would be this or always never. Probably this song though.
In ending note, as Porcupine Tree’s 1st real album, it was for sure nothing you should just skip over. Not as good as his/there later stuff but for sure not a waste of money/time album. Lots of instrumentals though. If your not a fan of instrumental, I don’t know if this is the album for you. About half of the album is instrumentals. That is probably the bad side of the album along with all the nothing tracks. Three of them. I have never herd the original of this album, only the re-issue. But I know that Steven Wilson is one of the best song writer/producer of my/our time. Anything by him is worth a listen. He also produced “Opeth” two albums “Deliverance” and “Damnation”, and showed Opeth the wonders of a keyboard, and the great effects it can produce. Notice after the recording, Opeth now has a official keyboardist on board.
Always Never 5/5
Up The Downstair 3/5
Not Beautiful anymore 2.5/5
Small Fish 4.5/5
Burning Sky 5/5