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Porcupine Tree - In Absentia Print E-mail
Tuesday, 24 September 2002
in absentia,
Lava Records, 2002
| Performance 7 | Sound 7 |

ImagePorcupine Tree is a modern-day progressive rock band, one that exhibits many obvious musical influences. Even though a progressive music novice -- like yours truly -- can quickly create an imaginary mental catalogue of this group’s CD collection, such knowledge never prevents In Absentia from being an enjoyable listening experience. Since this British outfit plays with plenty of natural passion, its artistic spirit lifts it far above the usual cold and calculated stereotype we so often associate with too many progressive groups from rock’s not so distant past.

If you’re keeping score at home, let’s run through some of Porcupine Tree’s possible musical heroes. The complete of Pink Floyd catalogue is more than likely front-and-center on the old CD rack at home. Tracks like “Lips of Ashes,” with its layered vocals over acoustic picking, brings that classic rock icon immediately to mind, as does “Prodigal,” which sounds like a spiritual folk/rock quest. But Floyd is just but one heroic reference point here.

"Heartattack In A Lay By" plays like Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, yet it distinguishes itself because of its falsetto backing vocal. “Collapse The Light Into Earth” is a piano ballad with strings, which sounds more than a little like The Moody Blues. “The Creation Has A Mastertape” skips to a double-time beat, features affected vocals (as through a bullhorn) and is quite similar in many ways to a Rush exercise. These are but a few handy examples, and one can be sure prog heads will certainly find many more matches than just these.

Porcupine Tree has much more on its collective mind than mere hero worship alone, however. “The Sound Of Muzak,” for example, is a guitar showcase that seemingly bemoans the sad state of contemporary music. "One of the wonders of the world is going down/it's going down/It's one of the wonders of the world/and no one cares" Well, at least they care.

One of the common knocks against progressive rock is how keyboards too often drown out good old rock ‘n’ roll electric guitar in its mixes. Thankfully, Porcupine Tree does not forsake the almighty sacred ax with its music. “Blackest Eyes” sports a big, fat opening guitar riff, and “Wedding Nails” mixes a metal-ish guitar run in with its ambient keyboards.

It’s not hard to trace almost exactly where the roots of this Porcupine Tree go, but as long as its branches continue to stretch and grow, this band will never be reduced to mere wood shavings through any guilt by (progressive rock) association.

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