“Fear of a Blank Planet”

Porcupine Tree

Atlantic Records

4 stars

“Fear of a Blank Planet” may be the 21st century’s version of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”

It’s about apathy in an age of boundless advances and possibilities. “In school I don’t concentrate / And sex is kinda fun / But just another one / Of all the empty ways / Of using up a day” go just some of the lyrics. Appropriately enough, Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree intentionally modeled “Fear of a Blank Planet” after LPs from the ’60s and ’70s, one of the more famous victims of technology’s onward march.

The music, however, is anything but disinterested. Each song is a studied arrangement that incorporates keys, strings and other things, all densely layered with a bravura that doesn’t forget the hook. It takes various forms, from the Tool-esque jungle of “Anesthetize” to the mellifluous gravitas of “Sentimental.” If they haven’t already proven it, Porcupine Tree is clearly the successor to the prog-rock crown if Rush, King Crimson and Dream Theater ever decide to hang it up.

Given the vast knowledge Wilson displays in the recording studio and the depths they’ll go for their music, Porcupine Tree isn’t by any means Luddite. But their stance on current pastimes will resonate with those conscious of the tradeoffs entailed in today’s increasingly plugged-in, tuned-out world.

 

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