The Porcupine Tree catalog from Up the Downstairs on contains such an embarrassment of riches, and the albums since Stupid Dream in particular are packed with so many of the most melodic riff-based hard rock songs and affecting ballads/quasi-ballads in recent memory, that a collection of songs as fine as Lightbulb Sun can get lost in the shuffle, simply by failing to possess highlights capable of competing with those of the albums that surround it.
However, it would be a mistake to overlook Lightbulb Sun just because it lacks a soaring, anthemic moment like predecessor Stupid Dream’s "Even Less", doesn't have any pop songs to quite measure up to the soul-baring beauty of that album’s "Pure Narcotic", and generally doesn't rock nearly as hard as subsequent PT albums.
"Four Chords that Made a Million" is a driving rocker that employs sardonically “trendy” tabla drums and sampled sitar sounds behind lyrics which skewer the artistic hollowness of the pop music industry. Along with the track that follows it, “Shesmovedon”, it’s one of the albums catchiest moments.
The title track and "Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before it is Recycled" deftly negotiate their way from pretty and melodic verses backed with acoustic guitar (as well as banjo on the latter) to killer slide-guitar riffing and spacey jamming (in waltz time!), respectively.
"Russia on Ice", perhaps the album's pièce de résistance, is a masterful moodscape that tacks from dreamy to cathartic to menacing without sounding the least bit forced or cobbled-together. To my mind, this track justifies it's 13-minutes a lot better than most similar-length epics by today's crop of nouveau-symphonic bands, who typically cram in five times as many ideas without managing to “say” half as much.
Track down a copy of this out-of-print CD, or wait until it's re-released later in 2006. Either way, Lightbulb Sun burns too brightly to be overlooked.
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