Tox' Retro Reviews: Porcupine Tree - On The Sunday of Life

Martintox Presents: His Retro Reviews



On The Sunday of Life

A.K.A: I can't believe it's not Pink Floyd!

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Artist: Porcupine Tree
Genre: Prog Rock, Space Rock, Experimental
Label: Delerium
Length: 1:16:16
Tracks: 18
Best Track: Nine Cats and Jupiter Island

About Porcupine Tree

Porcupine Tree is a British band, the brainchild of Steven Wilson and Malcolm Stocks, formed in 1987 as a joke band. Through the sheer power of having nothing to do on days off, they created a false band named The Porcupine Tree, heightening the myth by making a huge detailed (fake) backstory, Wilson even making music so as to reinforce the whole thing (almost like Spinal Tap, but even more insane).

However, a few years later, Wilson decided to release what he made for the joke, releasing Tarquin's Seaweed Farm and The Nostalgia Factory, both albums lasting over 150 minutes when combined (the only actual Spinal Tap album at the time was the soundtrack album to This Is Spinal Tap, which lasted 35 goddamn minutes). Eventually, he signed a deal with recently-formed label Delerium and released On The Sunday Of Life, the last time he would just re-release the same songs over and over.

The band gained a mass following and is today hailed as the new Pink Floyd, which is only true in the group's early days, as the later albums are more like a mix of Nine Inch Nails and Dream Theater than Pink Floyd. However, the first few albums are definitely that way, and nothing gets closer to On The Sunday Of Life, the apex of Wilson screwing around with studio equipment.


Part I: First Love

The album begins with Music for the Head, which already tells us in advance that the albums mainly contains two kinds of tracks: the longer songs with vocals and the short intermissions in-between them. Music for the Head is a small oboe (at least I assume it's flute) solo in space.

Right afterwards is Jupiter Island, one of the best songs in the album. Wilson's voice is not really fit for the space-beach-rock-ish feel the song goes for, and the drums sound more like sardine containers in a vacuum than drums, but they are a good part of what makes this song so enjoyable either way, along with the cool-sounding guitar.

Following are Third Eye Surfer and the title track, the former a honestly Syd Barrett-era drum solo and the latter yet another oboe solo. The drums come back to drive that goddamn classical instrument away, when The Nostalgia Factory kicks in.

It begins with a synth melody before going into the serious part, reminiscent of Jupiter Island. Wilson's vocals work a lot better with that one, too. Amazingly, although it seems like it would be too long, it works really well. The atmosphere is what really sells it, though, with the things and the other things and those other things and that high-pitched voice. You'd know what I'm talking about if you listen to the album.


Part II: Second Sight

Part II begins in a really wierd way with Space Transmission, a 3-minute monologue from God(?), whom Satan(?) imprisoned somewhere, only being able to observe the world(?) before the sun exploded(?), 40 centuries ago(?), leaving him in darkness. And a few hours before he made that monologue, Satan(?) came over to him and ranted about why humanity worships God(?) instead of him, and then some black stuff gets out of God(?)'s mouth, and he remembers a dream and God(?) says that Satan(?) keeps him imprisoned until he'd return to Earth(?) and seek his revenge upon something.

I'm pretty sure it's symbolic, but I definitely don't know what it wants to say.

Message from a Self Destructing Turnip is just what it advertises: it's a message that self-destructs by approaching a marching drum to the microphone, making a segway into Radioactive Toy. That song manages to make the length worthwhile almost the same way as Nostalgia Factory, although Toy is much slower, going from Coldplay-style vocals to Beatles-inspired riffs played Pink Floyd-style. It eventually goes to a stop about halfway in before rising and bursting with a huge-ass guitar solo, leaving the last 2 minutes for a sort of atmospheric fade-out, like you've been thrown into the depths of outer space after you had a really cool party in the shuttle.

The final track in the second part, Nine Cats, is a Coldplay song if Coldplay actually wanted to go over 10 decibels for longer than 30 seconds and didn't resort to smashing their piano. It slowly rises with a single guitar accompanied with Wilson, who does the best vocal job out of all the other songs, before going into a massive mosh pit with maybe, like, 3 guitars at the same time, dude.


Part III: Third Eye

Hymn, the opening track of the third part, is... not really a hymn. There sometimes seems to be a weak voice calling out, which would sort of make it a hymn; maybe it symbolizes the last guy left after a huge battle trying to chant the anthem of victory for his country, but he is too weak to stand or chant. You know, deep shit like that.

Footprints is a chain of two kinds of sequences, the first basically being a Diablo II track, the second being an explosive but short chorus line. Eventually, both sequences fuse together and fade back out.

Linton Samual Dawson is... I'm not really sure. All I know is that the instrumental part is pretty good (in feel, it goes back yet again to Jupiter Island) and that Wilson sounds silly. Like bi-polar disorder, And the Swallows Dance Above the Sun makes the mood go down, where the highlights are the drums and synthesizer. The song does, indeed, sound a lot like Pink Floyd, but that resemblance doesn't jump out at you, screaming like a maniac.

Finally, this part ends with Queen Quotes Crowley, a weird instrumental with reversed voice clips and the use of sound that goes left and right because it's not like the Beatles already did that to death, it's goddamn STEREOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!


Part IV: Fourth Bridge

The last part begins with No Luck With Rabbits, an almost terrifying reversed amusement park ride. Following that is Begonia Seduction Scene, which is much less mentally scarring than the title suggests, as it is only a short and actually pretty mellow instrumental guitar track in the beginning (at least, mellow compared to the rest of the album).

This Long Silence, however, serves as an excellent penultimate track, the peak guitar riffing between verses standing as one of the most memorable parts of the album altogether (and that is seriously saying a lot).

Finally, we get to the last song, It Will Rain For A Million Years. It opens with the sound of, fittingly enough, rain, and builds up in the same way the first track in a Pink Floyd album would, the guitar starting first, the drum and the synths following and getting more complex, and Jesus goddamn Christ, this was released in 1991?!

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When the old gods have fallen, indeed.

Oddly enough, it seems like it constantly builds up and then just ends at the 10-minute mark, not really being too "big" in terms of volume compared to the rest; that might as well be intentional, because it sort of simulates rain: it continually builds up and then sometimes just stop. In that way, you can really say that it will rain for a million years.


Conclusion

For an album that is two-thirds joke songs made for a fake band, the result is way better than you'd expect. However, there is a big flaw (and that varies from one to the other if it is actually a flaw), and that is the fact that except for Nine Cats, it's not really that possible to listen to an individual song, as it feels they are empty without everything that surrounds it. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but if I'm trying to listen to one song before going out, it doesn't feel as good as listening to the entire thing (which is pretty inconvenient, since the album lasts over an hour).

Final Note: 8/10


As always, feedback is welcome, and remember that you can request me to review an album, game or movie.

You can find my previous music reviews on the archive that's been made just for that purpose.

 

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