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Porcupine Tree: The IncidentPorcupine Tree: The Incident
Roadrunner Records

The Epic Success and Failure of The Incident

To make an extended song of more than 10 minutes work, it is imperative on the writer to make the listener not want to look at the watch. Porcupine Tree's latest album, The Incident, demonstrates both success and failure when it comes to the record's centerpiece track.

The Incident's title cut is a 55-minute piece that plays more like an independent thematic album than a continuous song, but it is clearly meant to be listened in a single sitting. As a broad, unified sequence of 12 parts -- with lyrics that analyze various incidents that that can have a profound effect on an individual's life -- that make up the whole, this is where "The Incident" fails.

Porcupine Tree up to this point has been masterful in writing long epics with a consistent, seamless and unifying flow that makes the passage of time seem like an afterthought. But the song progression on The Incident lacks those unifying elements and is very unbalanced.

At the same time, sitting within the title work is its biggest shining moment: the individual epic "Time Flies," an autobiographical track from singer/guitarist/lead writer Steven Wilson. The 11:40 song borrows liberally from Pink Floyd's "Dogs," including the skillful acoustic buildup that blends into a strong electric passage. In past interviews, Wilson has not been shy about where the inspiration for this track came from, noting that the Floyd masterpiece Animals was the first album he owned.

The other standout part of "The Incident" is its closing section, "I Drive The Hearse," a less progressive number that puts another example of Wilson's exceptionally diverse song-writing skills on display. This catchy tune ends the song sequence on solid footing, but unfortunately isn't enough to save it.

Joining "The Incident" is a second disc of four tracks that, despite no unifying element, present a much more cohesive set of songs. These selections, along with the overall feel of the lead track, move away from the harder edge that has been more prominent in the recent releases from the band in favor of the more atmospheric sounds that typified Porcupine Tree's pre-In Absentia days.

Overall, The Incident represents an interesting transition into the next phase of Porcupine Tree's musical journey and is worth a listen despite the unevenness of its title track.

- Gregory Twachtman

Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.