The Incident

Porcupine Tree

Roadrunner, 2009

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Attempting something ambitious doesn’t have to yield a high and mighty result to do justice to the painstaking efforts. But in the realm of prog-rock, this is total heresy. It isn’t uncommon that in their dizzying enthusiasm to push the boundaries of what’s conventional, prog-rockers veer into the realm of pretentious over-indulgence.

The format of ­The Incident – one musical piece divided into subparts – isn’t novel. But while the multipart structure might encourage needless distractions in terms of unnecessary musical segues and vague instrumentals, Porcupine Tree’s approach here is unflinchingly focused. Steven Wilson lets his innate knack for entwining tight pop melodies into the prog-rock format of his band set the course for the music here.

The outcome is an album consisting of tersely knit songs which constantly morphs and doesn’t care to indulge in tedious musical interludes. In spite of its unconventional format, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Incident is one of the more accessible and less dark of Porcupine Tree’s more popular, post-In Absentia records.

If anything, this album has more in common with Wilson’s other successful project Blackfield than with the current Porcupine Tree avatar. The munificence of pianos and acoustic guitars substituting for the heaviness of rhythm guitars gives the album the kind of melodiousness that is instantly delectable. Also, Wilson sounds more earnest and vulnerable, a characteristic that he established on Blackfield but which is lacking in Porcupine Tree. In spite of generously long numbers like the almost 12-minute “Time Flies” or the seven-minute “Remember Me Lover” (from the second disc), The Incident bears a strong resemblance to the brevity of the Blackfield records.

But while Blackfield was more direct and a bit more “emo” with its lyrics and music, Wilson’s work on The Incident is extremely sophisticated. For its inspiration, which cannot be more simplistic – namely a car accident and the news of an evacuation of teenage girls from a religious cult in Texas – the album doesn’t come across as in-your-face as the Blackfield releases – or even its predecessor, Fear Of A Black Planet, for that matter, which was quite crude in its lyrical narration.

The Pink Floyd influence has always been prevalent in all of Porcupine Tree’s works, and moreso on this record, particularly on the stirringly personal “Time Flies” and its blatant similarity to Floyd’s “Time.” And although Wilson’s take on the passage of time (“But after a while you realize time flies / And the best thing that you can do is take whatever comes to you”) is less embroiled in despair than Floyd’s, it does nothing to take away his brazen recycling of this rock classic. But with Wilson’s brilliant songwriting skills, the product of this most unoriginal idea is righteously turned into no less than an inspiring rock anthem. Such exceptional songwriting is the base that The Incident stands on, and it stands tall, very tall.

Rating: A

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© 2009 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Roadrunner, and is used for informational purposes only.