Porcupine Tree: Stupid Dream (CD, 59:55) Kscope Records 128132 1999 Kscope Records P.O. Box 1288 Gerrards Cross, Bucks SL9 9YB ENGLAND If Signify was the CD that bridged Porcupine Tree's psychedelic past to its more pop-friendly future, then Stupid Dream is the album that solidifies the band's intentions of moving away from ambient soundscapes and becoming more of a mainstream song-oriented act. Gone are the trippy 10-minute acid-induced sonic journeys that were the trademark of bandleader Steve Wilson, they're now replaced with "proper" songs complete with standard verses and catchy choruses. While this shift will probably disappoint some of PT's long-time fans, it's really not fair to dismiss Stupid Dream solely based on the assumption that "Wilson's gone pop". Most of the tunes on the CD are indeed more conventional, but rest assured that PT's songs still have hooks planted firmly in Pink Floyd-like space-rock. The difference is now the compositions are more structured and less free form. If you're willing to take a journey to new territory with PT and Steve Wilson on Stupid Dream, your open-mindedness will be rewarded with some very well-crafted prog/pop. Stupid Dream kicks off with a song that sounds like it could have been ripped-off from David Gilmour's hidden vaults titled "Even Less." The song features some excellent guitar riffs from Wilson, and contains fantastic use of a live string section resulting in an absolutely dreamy (and catchy) chorus. Similar tracks that capture that Floyd-ish vibe include "Don't Hate Me" - which contains some great sax work from Theo Travis - and the jazzy closer "Stop Swimming" with its beautiful piano accompaniment and meandering drum patterns. Counterbalancing these more spacey tracks is the straight-ahead pop of "This is No Rehearsal" and "Slave Called Shiver," a couple of well-composed but ultimately forgettable mainstream tunes. There's nothing particularly bad about these tunes, it's just that Steve Wilson is capable of so much more than quaint pop songs. To his credit, Wilson does manage to fire off an excellent pop tune with the track "Piano Lessons," a track that is basically a piece of early 60's Brit pop augmented with one of Wilson's ethereal choruses. There really are only a couple of complete miscues on Stupid Dream. One is the song "Pure Narcotic" that is so derivative of Radiohead that I'm surprised that Wilson hasn't received a subpoena from Thom Yorke yet. The other clunker is the 6 minute instrumental "Tinto Brass," a quirky band composition that really seems to go nowhere at all. However, other than those two tracks, Stupid Dream is an album filled with very nice prog/pop songs that should be attractive to fans of Pink Floyd and the like. I'm not sure why Steve Wilson has decided to steer PT away from psychedelia towards more mainstream music, but on Stupid Dream he does prove to be more than capable at making the switch. - Michael Askounes (firstname.lastname@example.org) CREDITS: Richard Barbieri: Analogue Synths, Hammond Organ, Mellotron Colin Edwin: Bass Chris Maitland: Drums, Percussion Steven Wilson: Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Samples Theo Travis: Flutes, Saxes East of England Orchestra: Strings TRACKLIST: 1. Even Less (7:11) 2. Piano Lessons (4:21) 3. Stupid Dream (0:28) 4. Pure Narcotic (5:02) 5. Slave Called Shiver (4:41) 6. Don't Hate Me (8:30) 7. This is No Rehearsal (3:27) 8. Baby Dream in Cellophane (3:15) 9. Stranger by the Minute (4:31) 10. A Smart Kid (5:22) 11. Tinto Brass (6:17) 12. Stop Swimming (6:53) More information on Porcupine Tree can be found at http://www.porcupinetree.com
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