Years ago I heard about this peculiar British band called Porcupine Tree. Rush was somehow connected but I don’t recall.
Well now, hold on just a second…
Ah! OK, Alex Lifeson contributed some guitar work on Porcupine Tree’s 2007 album Fear of Blank Planet. Thus, in 2009 I saw the tour for The Incident and believe it or not a week or so prior to the show I reached out to the band (or their maybe their management) for the likely setlist as I wanted to familiarize myself to the songs they planned on playing.
I think the response was sarcastic in nature as whoever responded had never heard such a request. Regardless, they declined. But here’s the rub. Porcupine Tree started their tour before releasing the album.
I had never heard such a thing! I knew going in I would not know some of the songs and indeed they played a bunch off The Incident and though I wasn’t overly bored I would have enjoyed the concert far more had I known at least a considerable sum of the setlist.
So why did I go down that rabbit hole? Oh right! The band’s new album Closure/Continuation released last week (June 24) reminded me a bit of that concert. Closure/Continuation, Porcupine Tree’s 11th studio album marks the band’s first new material since that album that was released after the start of the tour. The lengthy hiatus allowed singer Steven Wilson to focus on a solo career while drummer Gavin Harrison joined The Pineapple Thief.
Released as a seven-track album, Closure/Continuation also options a deluxe version with three additional cuts adding nearly 20 more minutes of music. A hard album to digest, Closure/Continuation features lengthy compositions with several songs stretching past seven minutes and the shortest nearly four and a half minutes. Don’t expect any of the songs to absorb on the first spin or even the second. Perhaps that’s the brilliance of it, but the album is easy to dismiss.
Some songs remind me of my first impression of Rush’s Snakes & Arrows – an initial cumbersome listen until the sonic grooves settled into place. In fact, I submit if you gave the average Rush fan this album and Envy of None’s new album without any foreknowledge, only that one is Lifeson’s new band, all respondents would pick Closure/Continuation as the Rush guitarist’s new gig.
Porcupine Tree follows no set-in-stone harmonic structure for any of their songs often going in different melodic directions midway and changing tempos before circling back to how it started. Point being, passive listening simply leaves you lost and confused as if Porcupine Tree dares the listener to sit down and drink Closure/Continuation in.
Known for mostly preeminent progressive rock compositions – Closure/Continuation sounds a bit less proggy and more experimental, at times – Porcupine Tree weaves in several genres even if all under the same umbrella. That’s not to say the band abandons all aspects of prog rock. Quite the contrary as you will see.
The rock piece “Harridan” opens the album with a chugging bass line that hardly relents and gives this one strong life. The slow and contemplative “Of The New Day” brings to mind that Rush Snakes & Arrows album, quite the enigma in “Rats Return” which dials back and forth from a heavier rock piece to an unhurried refrain while adding some haunted house sounds. “Dignity” comes straight outta the early 70s with dashes of Pink Floyd or is it King Crimson considering Harrison has also taken up time keeping duties for these early proggers. “Herd Culling” sounds like a Nine Inch Nails song in both title and sound.
As for the rest? Varying arrangements of lengthy progressive rock, fans of the genre most certainly will relish. You might not like the near 10 minute “Chimera’s Wreck” but it’s still pretty epic in sound and scope. The regular album version ends here as the deluxe includes the instrumental “Population Three” which comes across more exploratory or some type of pre-show warm up ritual with just a token of melody that begs for more. “Walk the Plank” (on the standard edition) and (deluxe) album closers “Never Have” and “Love in the Past Tense” encompass all that prog rock conveys.
This album takes time and even after an ample dedicated amount you might still need to put it away for a year before it finally registers. Like what happened with U2’s No Line on the Horizon. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know they ain’t prog rock but that album sucked until it didn’t. And, no I’m not saying Closure/Continuation sucks. What I’m trying to say is…
You might not get Closure/Continuation until you do.
Porcupine Tree Closure/Continuation Songs:
- Of the New Day
- Rats Return
- Herd Culling
- Walk the Plank
- Chimera’s Wreck
- Population Three
- Never Have
- Love in the Past Tense