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Artist: Porcupine Tree
Date Released: April 6, 1999
Produced By: Steven Wilson
- Even Less (7:11)
- Piano Lessons (4:21)
- Stupid Dream (0:28)
- Pure Narcotic (5:02)
- Slave Called Shiver (4:40)
- Don't Hate Me (8:30)
- This Is No Rehearsal (3:26)
- Baby Dream In Cellophane (3:15)
- Stranger By The Minute (4:30)
- A Smart Kid (5:22)
- Tinto Brass (6:17)
- Stop Swimming (6:53)
Porcupine Tree goes pop. You'd think this idea would be nausea-inducing, especially after the two fantastic albums that led up to this change in direction, but Stupid Dream is so much more than just a pop CD. It's a refreshing change after the black hole that was Signify, and while this is considerably more accessible than the band's early material, it's still complex in a more subtle way, and quite progressive. And while it's not quite as dark as Signify, Stupid Dream does contain plenty of Steven Wilson's pesseminstic (and at times sloppy) lyrics, and some tracks with melodies that nobody would regard as upbeat. So while Stupid Dream was a bit of a departure from the first four studio albums, it's still very much Porcupine Tree, and is still very much a great album.
There are some very accessible pop songs on this album, but what sets them apart from so many other prog bands who venture into the world of pop is that they not only keep progressive elements about them (mainly that kind of spacey feel that all PT work has featured to some extent), but they manage to actually make them good! There's no "Owner of a Lonely Heart" on Stupid Dream, which is probably why this band has remained relatively obscure. It wouldn't be too crazy to hear tracks like "Piano Lessons", "This Is No Rehersal" or "Stranger By the Minute" getting played on the radio, but that doesn't mean they're not good. In fact, the gorgeous ballad "Pure Narcotic" may very well be the best song on here, despite a very upbeat tone and accessible feel. "Slave Called Shiver" may be a bit darker (especially thanks to lyrics like "I need you more/than you can know/and if I hurt myself/it's just for show"), but it has an infectious bassline, and manages to be haunting, beautiful AND catchy all at the same time. On the other hand, tracks like "Even Less" and "Don't Hate Me" should appeal to just about any proghead, the former with its soaring riffs and Floydian feel, the latter with its fantastic soloing (including on flute and saxophone!), and outstanding dark feel. The instrumental "Tinto Brass" even shows the band making a bit of a throwback to their fantastic jams of old, albeit with a heavier aspect than before (this song is one of the first sightings of the heavy metal riffs that Wilson would begin to encorporate more heavily on their next two albums).
There is still some room for improvement on here though, largely in the lyrics department. Even now, six years after the release of this album, Steven Wilson's lyrics have some problems with them, and while certain moments of this album do show that he has it in him to write them effectively, nobody should buy this expecting deeply moving poetry or anything. Stupid Dream sounds less like Pink Floyd than anything they'd done beforehand, and as a result this isn't an album that will appeal to hardcore 70s progheads who refuse to listen to anything that isn't just like the classic bands of old. But great music is great music, and if nothing else, Stupid Dream is a remarkable progressive pop album. It would be topped by the two masterpieces that followed it, but regardless, anybody with an interest in either Porcupine Tree or creative modern prog in general should have a copy of this in their collection (fortunately, it's being reissued at some point this year, so getting one will become considerably easier).