Porcupine Tree
Nil Recurring



by JDubb USER (6 Reviews)
May 3rd, 2020 | 7 replies

Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A treatise on the loss of a Youth's mental and social well being

For a while now, I have desired to revisit the concept in both the album Fear of a Blank Planet and its companion EP Nil Recurring.

A few months back, I was perusing the used CDs at my local Goodwill store. It is rare that I find much there, but shockingly they had (someone had actually given back) Fear of a Blank Planet. As I already had it, and have had it for a while, I left it there for a lucky someone - $2.92 for an incredible, mind blowing album. But it hit me, then and there, that I needed to revisit this album, especially as my Children were approaching their teens.

I aim below to provide a high level summary of “my take” or interpretation on the combined concept of both albums. Note, that I will not be speaking to the music itself, which both are indeed remarkable and have been thoroughly reviewed by others.

In brief, as noted by Steven Wilson, this album presents the loss of a teenage Youth's mental and social well being. Such loss is due to the Youth's overuse of “screentime”, gaming, and narcotics, and resulting social alienation leading to information overload, and mental and spiritual blankness (vacuity).

The concept of the albums, in my opinion, is best perceived by following the track order below.
1. Fear of Blank Planet
2. Anesthetize
3. My Ashes
4. Sentimental
5. Normal
6. Cheating the Polygraph
7. Way Out of Here
8. Sleep Together
9. What Happens Now

The first track, Fear of a Blank Planet, sets the stage for the entire concept. Steven Wilson's lyrics provide the setting. The Youth resides in a darkened room with bed unmade, window blinds closed, and TV or music (i.e., white noise) in the background. Pornography likely on TV. Like my own children, the Youth has a constant “finger on the switch” of the Xbox controller. Moving forward to current date, this would be an iPhone, iPad, Switch or the like (not that the Xbox One does not continue to hold our interest). Terminally bored, the Youth turns to use of prescription drums. Not even pornography, sex, or desires holds interest any longer. All media turn to ashes in the mouth - tasteless. The Youth becomes simply no longer there. The track Anesthetize continues this trend, expanding on the Youth's absence (“I simply am not here”), boredom (“I'm totally bored but I can't switch off”), and growing apathy (“my hand's on a gun and I find the range, God tempt me”). Pills providing the only “electricity in the Youth's life.

I'm sure many of you Sputnikers can empathize at how difficult it is to talk to your pre-teen or teen, as they are (or become) lost in the vacuous world of their hand-held devices. I often hear from my oldest sons (especially during the Covid 19 days), “I'm bored” - myself wondering why they can't find something/anything to occupy their time. After a while, silence becomes the new norm. That is, of course, the parent's point of view. Conversely, from the Youth's point of view “my mother is a bitch” and “my father gave up ever trying to talk to me”.

The track My Ashes finds the Youth deciding to stay safe in his own shell, in his own world, under the covers. He reminisces apathetically on the ashes of his youth and “the child that I forgot”, both of which “fade among the things unseen”. A line from this song hits home for me “when my mother and father gave me their problems I accepted them all”. How not for the Youth to become some manifestation of their parents insecurities, due to both nature and nurture. I know, unfortunately for them, that I have inadvertently passed on some of my problems (i.e., insecurities, preferences, habits, etc.), both good and bad, to my children. And the “problems”, the Youth “accepted them all”.

The tracks Sentimental and Normal continue the Youth's progression: sullen, bored, and stoned – wishing away each day. Never wanting to grow up and lose the ability to blame his/her parents. But conversely, in Normal, wishing that he/she was “old and a little sentimental”. The Youth questions whether the prescription drugs (“pills”) are helping and begins to feel that life is wasting away.

In the track Cheating the Polygraph, the Youth lies, spins the truth, and covers up the facts. All to “escape the look in your eyes”, assuming reference to the Parents. To the point where integrity is lost, the Youth's soul becomes colder and black, and the Youth begins to feel shame.

Ultimately, the Youth looks for a way to escape (to fade out, vanish) and forget (burn your pictures, cut our your face, forget even your name). The track Way Out of Here is the beginning of the end, as the Youth resolves to “try to forget you” and has covered their final tracks.

The tracks Sleep Together and What Happens Now, together, provide the end of the concept. In Sleep Together, the Youth appears to turn to suicide, deciding to “relieve the pressure” and “switch off the future” by sleeping together right now and leaving forever. In the track What Happens Now, the Youth realizes that possessions (“all these things”) are meaningless (“in the end you can't take them with you”) and that his/her soul cannot be saved. The final question being how to end it all: “What Happens Now?”

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user ratings (733)
other reviews of this album
Tom (4)
Steven Wilson and co. release some b-sides from the "Fear of a blank Planet" recording sessions that...

e210013 (4)
These are the four leftover tracks from Fear Of A Blank Planet. They represent the complement to tha...

tribestros (4.5)
An amazing collection of four outtakes from the Fear of a Blank Planet sessions that should have bee...

Comments:Add a Comment 
May 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 4.0


May 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 4.0

Ayeee this does indeed jam hard good sir

PT do prog right

May 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 4.5

Your track listing is missing the title track "Nil Recurring"

May 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 4.5


Steven gets some shit for his lyrics and lack of depth in relation to topics that have been covered ad infinitum but I think he brings a touch of ‘real-ness’ to it and like this write up it’s a labour of love.

EP is the bollocks. One of the best.

May 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 4.5

Good catch on the track Nil Recurring. Did not include as instrumental. Review focused on tracks with lyrics promoting the concept.

May 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice to see another review of this EP.

May 3rd 2020


Album Rating: 4.5

Quite a few steps ahead of Blank Planet, this one

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