Review Summary: A reunion almost too good to be true makes for a lovely comeback album with a faint glow of nostalgia that showcases the band’s unique style.
The long awaited return of Porcupine Tree has finally come after more than a decade. Frontman Steven Wilson’s solo career has been going strong since 2008, and it seems to have taken the Covid-19 pandemic to finally convince him and two other band members that the time was finally right for a reunion. The cult rock band have only grown in adoration and acclaim since their unofficial dissolution in 2010, and the good news is that they haven't missed a step during their long hiatus. This isn't to say there's anything quite as mind-blowing as their best work however; Closure/Continuation
essentially comes across like a collection of seven new songs from the tail end of their career in the vein of Nil Recurring
and The Incident
, without a whole lot of growth or changes.
There is a minimal influence from Wilson's solo career, even his latest work that aimed to be more mainstream and focus on electronic music, and sounds like it could have easily been released a decade ago. Some moments however are reminiscent of his excellent solo album The Raven That Refused to Sing
and maintain influences of the classic 1970s progressive rock era that Wilson loves so much. While returning with a bold new sound for Porcupine Tree is an exciting prospect in theory, there is something exceedingly comforting about the familiarity, and makes this feel like a gift to the fans. The standout performances are Wilson’s bass playing, Gavin Harrison on drums (after a long stint with King Crimson), and Richard Barbieri's keyboard work.
"Harridan" opens the album with an explosion of energy and a focus on fantastic bass playing by Wilson himself. He proves in those opening sections that he’s no slouch on the instrument, a good sign given that the only non-returning member was long time bassist Colin Edwin. Utilizing a murky atmosphere and fuzzy ambiance, the short and quirky “Walk the Plank” is the only song that sounds different from their previous material. The lengthy “Herd Culling” doesn’t exactly break new ground and takes a while to get going, with a typical repeating heavy guitar riff for the chorus alternating with sleepy verses. Thankfully a beautiful bridge section with ascending strummed guitar chords and Wilson delivering a highly emotive singing performance, nearly pushing the limit of his vocal range, makes for one of the album’s finest moments.
The highlights are the longest and most complex pieces, which should come as no surprise to those familiar with their discography. “Dignity” is a truly majestic epic, calming down with the instrumental virtuosity and being the band’s “Space Oddity” in a way, embodying a wonderful classic rock flavor throughout. Album closer "Chimera's Wreck" builds mysteriously with acoustic guitar and eventually a fantastic bass line, which leads to a wonderful guitar soloing section. More than any other of the others, this one exemplifies what makes Porcupine Tree so special and reminds us how incredible of a band they really were, and still are once again.
They were always seen as being influenced by groups like King Crimson and Pink Floyd, but being 30+ years old now have their own influence on a new generation of younger bands. The meaning of album title “Closure/Continuation” is a statement acknowledging that they are not sure if this return is merely to act as closure, as they never officially broke up, or the beginning of a new chapter. A continuation would certainly be warranted given what Porcupine Tree have just delivered, along with the three excellent bonus tracks which probably should’ve been part of the main album. Closure/Continuation
proves that they’re still one of the best, showing their own influencees and contemporaries alike how it's done. Wilson had repeatedly said in interviews that reviving the band was not in the cards, but that was thankfully incorrect and the fact that it happened at all is almost too good to be true. This is a wonderful comeback album emphasizing what made the band great and acts as both a good jumping off point if they choose continue on, or a great conclusion. Only time will tell which one it is.