So, how does Deadwing fit into things? People were thinking that the more metallic approach of In Absentia could develop into something more, something dark and heavy...those people were wrong. Or you may have thought that with Wilson's simple, poppy Blackfield side-project that Porcupine Tree might follow suite with some lovely, introspective and short pop songs...or maybe they would return to their psuedo-Floydian progressive past? Both also wrong. What we have got is a messy amalgamation of PT's older, spacier efforts, a healthy does of the commercial sensibilities of Stupid Dream or Lightbulb Sun, an unfortunate alt and nu-metal influence, every cliche in the Porcupine Tree song-book turned up a notch (this album suffers from SERIOUS self-plaguarism), and, curiously, some of the most bewildering awful lyrics I've ever encountered. All the elements are mashed together to produce the blandest, most boring and uninspired Porcupine Tree album...an unfortunate (non)'development' in a career that has borne quite a number of compelling songs.
Things start of promisingly, if a bit monotonously, with the title track 'Deadwing'. I must admit, I quite like this song, and it is easily my favourite on the album. However, that isn't really saying that much, and it has its fair share of flaws. It starts with some soft echoey sounds before bursting into a catchy, groovy riff and bassline that is repeated for most of the song. Luckily it is quite toe-tapping, though it begins to drag, what with the song being 9 minutes in length. The production is your typical Wilson fare, that is clear, compressed and tight, but the vocals sound a bit thin. Also, besides Wilson's actual singing (which is not bad, if slightly average), there is the awful shit that are the lyrics. How can you actually put the line: 'Like a cancer scare, in a dentist's chair' in a song and deliver it with a straight face? Unfortunately, the lyrics are godawful the entire way through the album. So with Deadwing we have a catchy opener that suffers from drag and a sense of deja-vu...wasn't this song on Up The Downstair or Signify already just much better in basically all aspects?
Next we have Shallow, which is easily much worse than the previous song. The main riff is basically nu-metal, and the chorus could be interchanged with any of the dross currently on television. Wilson whelps out angsty lyrics in a very whiny and disturbing way on this one. The entire thing reeks of desperation to get on radio. I know, Porcupine Tree have always been a commercially oriented band, but their songwriting has always pulled them through, helping them rise above the mundane stuff we get in the mainstream. Unfortunately that quality song-craft is virtually missing in the flat and lifeless Shallow.
Then we come to Lazarus. This song is almost unbearably bad, and the low-point of the album (unless that's Open Car!? It's hard to tell). Wilson is on total auto-pilot here, just churning out one of his patented depressed ballads but forgetting to include good music or lyrics. A fluctuating play-skool kiddie sounding piano accompanies Wilson as he emotes hopelessly terrible lyrics like 'So rest your head upon me, I have strength to carry you' and 'Follow me down to the river below, you know, moonlight is bleeding from out of your soul'. Wilson has written stuff like this before, but never to a song so bland as to make it fall completely flat. This pales in comparison to other PT songs like Stranger By The Minute, or The Rest Will Flow.
Halo picks up some of the elements of Deadwing by having a fat, groovy bassline. The song bumps along and is slightly catchy in a 'I've heard all this before from you WILSON!' kind of way, and yep, the lyrics are just as bad as before. However, it's an improvement from the two last stinkers. An average song and that's about it. Next is Arriving Somewhere But Not Here, which is apparently the early fan favourite (for those scaly-wags like myself that actually have the album at this point). Admittedly it is an alright song, but you've heard it all before. At 12 minutes it goes through the spectrum of PT's style, starting soft and echoey with Wilson's patented British nasal-whine, then rocking a little with a few solos and rock riffs before sputtering out. It's all very...ok. Predictable as all hell and with retarded lyrics, and on much the same level as Halo.
Mellotron Scratch is more of the same too, just a decent and bland little PT song, quite soft but also quite uninteresting. Nuff' said. That brings us to Open Car...good god, what was Wilson thinking!? His vocals jump along to a really, really bad nu-metal riff, sounding completely stupid. This song sucks, I don't know what else to say about it. 'Something broke inside my stomach, I let the pieces fall just where they fell, being with you is hell'...'Ok what's next, after the sex, what do we do now? Finding the time, drawing the line, and never crossing it' Shutup man! This is totally dumb, what happened to your song-writing Stephen?
The Start of Something Beautiful is clearly one of the better songs. After such a stretch of inadequacy that isn't too much of a challenge for it though. The song brings back a little bit of the 'zing' that Porcupine Tree had before. It has a nice atmosphere to it and thankfully some of the least shit lyrics on the album. Second fav of mine next to Deadwing. Finally, Glass Arm Shattering is one last bland number to finish things off. As far as the album goes it is probably the third best, actually feeling somewhat emotional and atmospheric in comparison to the forced, boring crap that came before it. These last two songs are still too little, too late.
I am really genuinely disappointed in Deadwing. Judging from their recent efforts I'm not sure where I would have pictured them going to after In Absentia, which at least saw a little bit of a progression in their sound with the addition of heavier riffs and songs. However, one thing I didn't think was going to happen was that they would regress back to mix up Signify with Lightbulb Sun, take away the good lyrics, much of the goodness of the melodies, and add touches of new-metal and really, really bad lyrics. This is the sound of a band treading water, or running on the spot...absolutely no progression whatsoever. I'm sorry but it just isn't good enough. Sometimes you can get away with copying yourself, but that's only IF (a big if) the material is STRONG! That is not the case here...with Deadwing Porcupine Tree simply rehash what they've already done, but seemingly on auto-pilot, with little regard paid to including compelling ideas. With little good new material on offer here, Deadwing dies before ever leaving the ground.
I'm expecting much more from you next time, guys.
|5. Arriving Somewhere But Not Here|
|6. Mellotron Scratch|
|7. Open Car|
|8. The Start Of Something Beautiful|
|9. Glass Arm Shattering|
|Buy other Porcupine Tree albums|