Porcupine Tree | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Porcupine Tree 

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Steven Wilson, the auteur behind this British art-rock quartet, gets angry when people compare his band to Pink Floyd. But where British art-rock auteurs are concerned, making them angry isn't necessarily such a bad idea. Stupid Dream (K Scope), Wilson's fifth album as Porcupine Tree and his third using other musicians, has more fire in its belly than you might expect of a record whose 7-minute opening cut, "Even Less," was scaled down from a 17-minute original version. Wilson fell in love with The Wall at age 12, learned several instruments, and began his musical career as a home-studio hermit; his psychedelic confections (one with a live audience dubbed in) were released first on cassette and then on his 1991 debut double album, On the Sunday of Life. In 1992 the half-hour ambient opus "Voyage 34" became an underground hit in Britain, and after completing one more LP by himself Wilson recruited drummer Chris Maitland, bassist Colin Edwin, and ex-Japan keyboardist Richard Barbieri to back him up live. Since then he's grown sufficiently enamored of performing (and sufficiently tired of fussing around in the studio) to pursue a harder-rocking, more song-oriented vision, fusing elements of 60s psychedelia and 90s techno into moody pop tunes inspired by Nick Drake, Brian Wilson, and, uh, Pink Floyd. Stupid Dream luxuriates in some signature elements of 70s prog--swirling acoustic guitars, Grand Canyon electrics, sultry strings, beatific three-part harmonies--but anchors them with concise melodies, rock-solid dance beats, and colorful, judicious soloing. Lately Wilson's been dropping names like Portishead, Radiohead, and the Verve; he's sworn off digital synthesizers for Mellotrons and the like, and he's stopped demo'ing his songs to death, letting his inspired sidemen contribute more of their own ideas. He may be less of an auteur than he was ten years ago, but at least he doesn't have to supply his own applause. Friday, 1 PM, Crow's Nest Music, Chicago Music Mart, DePaul Center, 333 S. State, 312-341-9196; and 10 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494. J.R. JONES

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tim Kent.

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