One of the best rock bands in modern music, calling what Porcupine Tree does nowadays prog-rock might be stretching it a little. Steve Wilson has morphed from an experimental Pink Floyd disciple to a fantastic singer/songwriter, sounding more like Radiohead (or even later Pink Floyd) than anything else. After really hitting their stride with 2000's gorgeous, melancholy Lightbulb Sun, PT somehow managed to get even better on In Absentia. The main weakness on LS was some truly cringe-worthy lyrics. The music was more than enough to overcome them, and they weren't always that bad, but if you can honestly read the lyrics to "Hatesong" the whole way through without cracking up, I admire you. Wilson has really gotten better in that regard, delivering sharp commentary on the state of modern music on "The Sound of Muzak", surrealistic poetry on "Gravity Eyelids", and beautiful (if slightly cheesy) romaticism on the gorgeous Radiohead-esque closer "Collapse The Light Into Earth".
Yet there's more to In Absentia than words. It leans more towards metal than any previous PT release, tracks like "Blackest Eyes", "Wedding Nails", and the dark, Tool-esque "Strip The Soul" all contain some distinctly heavy guitar work, helping to give things that extra punch. Yet "Lips of Ashes", "Prodigal" and "Heartattack in a Lay By" show that the band can still make great melodic tracks with the wonderful harmonies that made Lightbulb Sun so appealing. There's not one track I'd skip on here (although some are distinctly stronger than others), even if some are better than others. The standouts for me are "Gravity Eyelids" (this album's "Russia On Ice"), "Trains" (a great acoustic/electric rocker with a wonderful melody), and "Collapse the Light Into Earth", which has to rank among one of the most gorgeous piano ballads ever, closing the album out perfectly.
In Absentia is a great starting place for anyone interested in the band, and since it's not hard to find in stores (the same cannot be said for their previous albums, unfortunately), you really have no excuse to not get it. Whether you're into straightforward pop-rock, heavy metal, prog-rock, psychedelia, or whatever else you may be seeking in your music, odds are there's some of it on In Absentia. I greatly anticipate the next Porcupine Tree album, because this is a band capable of phenomenal things.
Lava/Atlantic Records #83604-2 (CD)
Special European version WEA Intrnational Inc. 7567 93163 with enhanced CD.
1. Blackest Eyes (4:23)
2. Trains (5:56)
3. Lips of Ashes (4:39)
4. The Sound of Muzak (4:59)
5. Gravity Eyelids (7:56)
6. Wedding Nails (6:33)
7. Prodigal (5:32)
8. .3 (5:25)
9. The Creator Has a Mastertape (5:21)
10. Heartattack in a Layby (4:15)
11. Strip the Soul (7:21)
12. Collapse the Light Into Earth (5:52)
- Steven Wilson / guitars and vocals
- Richard Barbieri / keyboards
- Colin Edwin / bass
- Gavin Harrison / drums
- John Wesley / backing vocals (1,4,7), guitar (1)
- Aviv Geffen / backing vocals (4,7)
- Dave Gregory / string arrangements (8,12)
Enhanced CD bonus tracks:
1. Drown With Me
3. Strip The Soul (Video edit)
- Porcupine Tree website
- Amazon USA
- Amazon UK
- Last FM
- CD Universe