Ten years ago this month, Porcupine Tree released its magnum opus, FEAR OF A BLANK PLANET. I’m sure that many of you in the progarchy community would respectfully (or otherwise) disagree with my belief that this was PT’s finest moment. Is it really the magnum opus of the band?
Or, maybe to put it differently, is it the finest moment of Steven Wilson, version 1.0?
Well, this might be the subject of a much longer post. . . . But, for now, let’s stick with FEAR.
Though much heavier than the albums prior to IN ABSENTIA, FEAR has everything that a prog fan would want. The lyrics are top notch, the album is a concept, and the playing is flawless and immaculate.
As to the album as a whole, it’s not quite perfect, but it’s extremely close to it. If it has a flaw (and this is more than arguable), it’s the failure to use “Sentimental” rather than “Normal.” To my mind, “Normal”—as it appears on the FEAR EP, NIL RECURRING—is one of the strongest songs PT ever recorded. The Fripp-esh element without it being a KC clone as well as the lyrics make it a superb song. While “Sentimental” is a great song, it sounds too much like the rest of FEAR. Had PT used “Normal” instead of “Sentimental,” I think that FEAR would have been, unquestionably, a perfect album. The story would’ve remained the same and the concept unaltered, but the flow of the album would’ve been more varied and more attention grabbing.
After FEAR, PT released its exceptional EP, NIL RECURRING, as well as WE LOST THE SKYLINE, ILOSAARIROCK, ATLANTA, and ANESTHETIZE. This is an incredible amount of music to emerge from one concept. Yet, it all works, and, equally important, it’s all excellent.
Two years later, PT released THE INCIDENT and its live twin, OCTANE TWISTED. These are great albums, but they pale in comparison to FEAR and its offshoots.
Finally, it must be noted that Alex Lifeson’s best solo—EVER—appears on “Anesthetize,” track three of FEAR. John Wesley’s version of Lifeson’s solo on the live follow-ups are almost as good and certainly as lively.
Now, fully a decade old, FEAR only gets more interesting with each listen.
A half century from now? Some historian of rock might very well be calling it one of the ten or so best albums produced in the rock era.