ALBUM REVIEW: Porcupine Tree - Closure/Continuation

7/10

Porcupine Tree - Closure/Continuation

As late as 2018, when Porcupine Tree frontman and founder Steven Wilson was asked about the band's chances of reunion, he responded, "Honestly, I would say zero… I'm proud of the catalogue; it's there, it exists, but it's kind of closed; it's finished." The impossible has happened with Wilson reuniting with Richard Barbieri and Gavin Harrison (but not Colin Edwin). They follow up their 2009 tenth Grammy Award-nominated album, The Incident with Closure/Continuation.

For those less familiar with Porcupine Tree, an album consisting of seven tracks, three lasting over eight minutes, can appear all-encompassing. However, if one looks back to Porcupine Tree's third LP, The Sky Moves Sideways, the seventeen-minute track "Moonloop" was an edit of the original 40 minutes live improv. Hence Porcupine Tree has since progressed with the art of editing.

With Wembley Arena dates in the pipeline and albums with small runs of 1000 copies planned, and their debut, On the Sunday of Life, selling over 20,000 copies, Porcupine Tree has undoubtedly achieved the "Stupid Dream" of fame and a glamorous lifestyle which ironically according to Wilson leads to a life of hard work and struggle. The question is, does Closure/Continuation help Steven Wilson, and Porcupine Tree move forwards?

Closure/Continuation opens with their first single in over 12 years, "Harridan", which starts with funky bass and funk guitars on loops to Wilson on vocals. "Harridan" has occasional brief and irregular synths interruptions along with dark, intense and unnerving guitars and eighties EDM elements for the playout. The unnerving prog intensity is also found in "Rats Return", which shares similarities to the Mars Volta's Frances the Mute. Steven Wilson evokes trepidation by evoking the names of several dictators, including Kim Il-sung.

The sophomore track "Of The New Day", whilst virtually devoid of prog influences, is an optimistic ballad which becomes grittier and more rugged with raw guitars. This song about rebirth, optimism, and something new and better around the corner helps the listener offset the intense content elsewhere on Closure/Continuation. "Dignity" follows, which starts out as a slight disappointment, sounding like an extended take on David Bowie's "Space Oddity" with additional MOR classic prog style synths and strings. However, "Dignity" redeems itself seven minutes in with a harmonious guitar and organ playout which sees Porcupine Tree at their must hungry so far on Closure/Continuation.

By drawing on Radiohead's Kid A/Amnesiac period, "Herd Culling" produces a seven-minute equally intense and calming song. The subtle, unsettling prog synths with intermittent cranked-up guitars provide a misleading sense of release from the built-up anxiety, which is finally released towards the end with mindfulness tranquillity reminiscent of that on "Treefingers". The penultimate piano-led "Walk The Plank", with a simultaneous mix of natural and drum machines, is this album's most instant mid-tempo song.

The best is saved to last with the playout, "Chimera's Wreck", with a running time of just under ten minutes, "Chimera's Wreck" is the longest track. Despite the opening with psychedelic and hypnotic Middle Eastern drumming, The track is also a neurotic panic attack where Wilson sings about needing a child and losing enthusiasm for life. The glorious rock intensity reaches a crescendo as Wilson repeatedly sings, "I afraid to be happy and die, I couldn't care less if I was to die, " followed by an extension and evolution of the superb guitar and organ playout featured on "Dignity".

Whilst Closure/Continuation doesn't enable Porcupine Tree to move forwards, it doesn't hinder them either. For example, "Chimera's Wreck" should be welcomed as a new live staple. The band's genius has earned album collaborations with King Crimson's Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew and Rush's Alex Lifeson, remains present.

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