Review Summary: Often Overlooked Masterpiece
Steven Wilson is nothing if not prolific. I doubt there is even a second that goes by when he is not working on, or at least contemplating about, a certain project or another. If not working on an album for pop rock band Blackfield, he would be touring with Porcupine tree or producing an album for Opeth. From all the countless projects and bands his worked with or fronted, his greatest success has to be the progressive rock juggernauts that are Porcupine Tree. Steven Wilson formed them in 1987 and since then they have released 10 studio albums.
Porcupine Tree is not a static band. Development and change is always imminent, and influences vary from trance to psychedelic (Wilson has stated that Dark Side of the Moon is a big influence).
Lightbulb Sun was released in May 2000, and is one of the band’s lesser known albums although still highly acclaimed. Following the musical style of the previous album, Stupid Dream, the band’s sixth album is a step towards a more commercial and mainstream album. Although not as ambient or experimental than previous albums like Sky Moves Sideways or Signify, Lightbulb Sun is a varied album, and overall a much more enjoyable experience.
The title track opens the album and it’s a brilliant hard rock song, although it deceives the listener at first with a soft piano and acoustic guitar intro as Wilson starts to sing about a childhood sickness, but at the 50 second mark a heavy distorted guitar comes in and the song picks up pace. The verses, from this point, are sung to a an melodic rock beat and the chorus to a much harder hard rock composition. ‘Lightbulb Sun’ represents exactly why Porcupine Tree are so loved, the unexpected turns, the constant change of tempo and the melodic but intelligent lyrics.
Like previously mentioned this is a varied album. ‘How is Your Life Today"’ is a short, and quite weird, piano number. It’s a creepy number with Wilson giving a multilayered vocal performance that should enchant the listener. ‘The Rest Will Flow’ and ‘Four Chords that made a Million’ are both more commercial and accessible numbers, but for difference reasons. The latter is a mid-tempo rocker, with heavy use of a distorted guitar and cynical lyrics, while the former is an insanely beautiful and uplifting acoustic track.
‘Shesmovedon’ is a track that pretty much any Porcupine Tree fan at least likes, released in two different incarnations, this version is quite soft at times and popish. The chorus is a masterpiece in its own right and the solo is one of the best the band has ever written. ‘Feel So Low’ is a beautiful and barren closer on the album. It’s practically Wilson singing to a soft acoustic guitar and an occasional piano, and the lyrics are a bit cheesy, but it’s still a haunting number.
‘Russia on Ice’ is the best song on the album. This is the closest song to the previous albums, with the atmospheric and ambient intro before a soft guitar riff comes in which builds and builds until it gives way to a heavy banging riff. This doesn’t last though and the track quickly calms down again for the verses. The lyrics are not brilliant to be honest, but their decent, although the chorus is very good. The highlight of the track has to be the final couple of minutes which consists of one huge solo which covers so many different styles including blues, metal and psychedelic.
Lightbulb Sun would be the best album of 99% of the bands that ever existed, the fact that it would probably miss out of the top 3 Porcupine Tree albums just shows how good they really are.