Porcupine Tree, for those who don’t know, were a British progressive rock group founded in 1987 by Steven Wilson, who went on to produce ten studio albums from 1992’s On the Sunday of Life, to their final release in 2009, The Incident. The band’s style developed from a slightly electronic Pink Floyd to heavy prog rock over its time, but it always remained endlessly enjoyable and effortlessly easy to get along with, even when track lengths rose beyond ten minutes, with melancholic lyrical themes.
Porcupine Tree’s music found a strong following over the years, and their later 2000’s efforts of In Absentia, Deadwing, Fear of a Blank Planet and The Incident found larger and larger audiences eager in anticipation of their new music. This may have been down to the band’s shift to a heavier, verging on metal, sound, which allowed for more accessibility for a more mainstream audience. The Incident broke the top 25 in many countries, but most notably, it did so in the UK and the USA. Who knows how well future Porcupine Tree records could have done?
Wilson’s decision to move away from Porcupine Tree and onto his own solo project, following his growing success came at an odd time. Porcupine Tree was doing great business, and was more popular than ever, fans couldn’t wait to see what else the brilliant band had up their sleeves. Following the awesome success of the world tour following The Incident, Mr. Wilson decided to focus all his attention on his solo career. To be fair, Wilson’s solo project has proven to be a resounding success of its own. It has allowed Wilson to experiment more in his music, and for someone who’s spent their life devoted to and engrossed in music, of course he’s going to spend all his time and efforts there.
His solo work has allowed him to be more experimental, and embrace the art of his music more than Porcupine Tree ever allowed, despite him writing practically all of it. My issue with his solo project stuff is that it’s made by the art-rock lover, for the art-rock lovers. For those who are into all the fancy words surrounding music production and delivery, with a penchant for the pretentious. Me listening to Wilson’s solo work is like me visiting the Louvre. I feel out-of-place. It’s music for the aficionados, those who visit the Louvre and talk about the meaning behind paintings, not those who look at something and might say it looks quite nice. It’s good, but a little too intellectual for my tastes.
For me, this layer of pretension is what separates Wilson’s solo work with what he was doing with Porcupine Tree, especially in their later years. I’m not saying that his solo work is bad, rather that I prefer Porcupine Tree’s slightly simpler approach to music writing. Both carry many of the same traits, such as lyrical themes and a tone of melancholy and both offer progressive rock, but Porcupine Tree is just easier to get along with, easier to listen to on a day-to-day basis in my opinion. Even their older, more experimental material I find easier to listen to than Wilson’s solo project. Porcupine Tree has always had a solid heavy rock, or space rock sound at its core. Wilson may have written the vast majority of Porcupine Tree’s music, but that doesn’t mean I should love his solo work if I loved Porcupine Tree.
I’ve been sad about Porcupine Tree coming to an end ever since they did. While they may not have officially broken up, it has now been eight years since their last record, and there are no signs of a comeback any time soon. I’d love it if they returned for a new album, or if they announced a tour. Fear of a Blank Planet, Deadwing and In Absentia are three of the finest records ever made, and it’d be a crying shame if we never got something like them from one of the best all-time British rock groups ever again. Oh well. Maybe I’ll try out Rush and see if they can scratch my heavy progressive rock itch.