PORCUPINE TREE — Lightbulb Sun

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PORCUPINE TREE - Lightbulb Sun cover
3.97 | 31 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2000

Filed under Non-Metal


1. Lightbulb Sun (5:30)
2. How Is Your Life Today? (2:46)
3. Four Chords That Made A Million (3:36)
4. Shesmovedon (5:14)
5. Last Chance To Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled (4:48)
6. The Rest Will Flow (3:15)
7. Hatesong (8:26)
8. Where We Would Be (4:12)
9. Russia On Ice (13:04)
10. Feel So Low (5:18)

Total Time 54:49


- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitars, piano, mellotron, dulcimer, samples, banjo, harp
- Richard Barbieri / synthesizers, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, mellotron
- Colin Edwin / bass, drum machine, guimbri
- Chris Maitland / drums, backing vocals

- Stuart Gordon / violin, viola
- Nick Parry / cello
- Eli Hibit / rhythm guitar
- Katy Latham / violin (The Minerva String Quartet)
- Lisa Betteridge / violin (The Minerva String Quartet)
- Sarah Heines / viola (The Minerva String Quartet)
- Emmeline Brewer / cello (The Minerva String Quartet)

About this release

July 11, 2000
KScope, Snapper

Reissued as Special Edition with a bonus disc with the following tracklist:

1. Buying New Soul (edit) (6:09)
2. Pure Narcotic (5:20)
3. Tinto Brass (live at Southampton University) (6:48)

Dvd-A Edition (Transmission 8.1) has the following bonus tracks:

1. Disappear (5.1 Mix) (3:40 )
2. Buying New Soul (5.1 Mix) (10:26)
3. Cure For Optimism (5.1 Mix) (6:36)

Reissued in 2008 as Expanded Edition with a new stereo mix on the first disc, with the Dvd-A version with 5.1 mix with the following bonus material:

1. Disappear (5.1 Mix) (3:40 )
2. Buying New Soul (5.1 Mix) (10:26)
3. Cure For Optimism (5.1 Mix) (6:36)
4. Original Stereo Album Mix (54:49).

Thanks to The Angry Scotsman for the addition and Lynx33, VerticalUprising, Unitron for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

With the opening title track regaling us with an anecdote about falling ill with the flu as a child, it's no surprise that Porcupine Tree's Lightbulb Sun has a rather doped-out, feverish tone to it. With gorgeous vocal harmonies on psychedelic progressive pop gems like Shesmovedon and extended ambient space rock workouts like Russia On Ice, the album refines and develops the approach of Stupid Dream, whilst at the same time some of Steven Wilson's guitar work begins to lean in a harsh, buzzing heavy metal direction prefiguring the band's radical transformation on In Absentia. If you liked Stupid Dream, this is the second half of that sandwich.
Adorned with a solemn textless album cover, Porcupine Tree's Lightbulb Sun is one of the best alternative rock albums out there. It's an album that exudes depressive as well as bittersweet melodies and instrumentation, and has enough metal to give it an aggressive edge when needed. By this time, Porcupine Tree had just about completely discarded the wonky psychedelic rock of their first few albums and made a smooth transition into the alternative rock/metal sound they're known for today.

Comparisons to bands like Pink Floyd, Live, and Toad the Wet Sprocket would be fair, but the band does really have their own unique sound here. There are spacey remnants of their early albums, but they have now taken form as an atmospheric backdrop to a depressive yet bittersweet alternative rock sound, which really benefits the mood of the album. "Shesmovedon" is a perfect example of this, as the song switches from a melancholic plod to harmonious melody during the chorus. The epic track "Russia on Ice" lands mostly on the depressive end, but builds up to a colossal metal thrashing at the end with a spacey orchestral backdrop. I must give a mention to Chris Maitland's drumming at the end of this track, which is just through the roof. Why he's so overlooked when talking about greatest rock/metal drummers, I'll never understand.

Lightbulb Sun is a good album to listen to in whole, as the lengthy-titled "Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It is Recycled" doesn't really stand on it's own very well. However, it works when in context with the entire album. As far as highlights go, excluding the ones previously mentioned, the dreary piano ballad "How is Your Life Today?" is certainly one. The fun snarky poke at the music industry "Four Chords that Made a Million" is as well, and is probably the only moment on the album that's not layered with feelings of loneliness and depression. The bass-heavy "Hatesong" and the nice heavy/serene contrast of the title cut are among my favorites as well.

With most of Porcupine Tree's output, you know what you're getting on the lyricism front. Most of the lyricism is made up of sadness, depression, loneliness, hate, drugs, and various other melancholy themes. The aforementioned "Four Chords that Made a Million" is the only song on the more lighthearted end, and provides some nice variation to an otherwise dreary album. Of course, when one shares the feelings expressed on albums like these, nothing hits harder in my experience.

On Lightbulb Sun, Porcupine Tree really focused their sound, and knew when and where to incorporate the different elements of their music. While I really like several of the band's albums, I think this is easily their most consistent and one that really resonates with me. One of my favorite albums, and an essential listen if you're looking for some melancholic alternative rock with a bit of a heavy edge. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!
It's quite easy for anyone to say that PORCUPINE TREE's 2000 progressive rock album is not as good as say masterpieces like In Absentia or Fear of a Blank Planet. Although I think that they are drastically different in terms of sound, that does not mean that they're better or worse than eachother. In fact, I think all three of said albums are fantastic for what they are, though perhaps I find myself liking this release more.

I've said it a million times and I'll say it again. Progressive metal is not my thing. I enjoy only a handful of bands with said sound, such as VOIVOD, but sadly PORCUPINE TREE (although being my friends' favorite band of all time) is not a band that I like very much. Don't get me wrong, their sound is excellent for what it is. But I never got into albums like Fear of a Blank Planet, although I did find myself enjoying Deadwing (probably because it was more alternative-oriented). However, Lightbulb Sun is perhaps my favorite release by the band.

Perhaps this album is stuck in limbo of progressive rock and alternative rock, but I find myself thinking more along the lines or progressive. This did after all precede the release of Stupid Dream, an experimental concept album released a year earlier, so they wouldn't be going back to metal for a time.

The album starts off with the interesting title track, 'Lightbulb Sun', which combines elements of acoustic and metal, perhaps more of the former overall. The song is probably my top highlight of the album. 'How's Your Life Today?' bridges 'Lightbulb Sun' and 'Four Chords that Made a Million' with a short but sweet piano piece. It's quite nice upon listening, not to mention relaxing. 'Four Chords' actually brings a Signify-type sound back into the picture, with lyrics speaking of the problems that recording companies put on bands like them. 'Last Chance to Evacuate...' is probably the most mediocre, sort of like an experiment in mocking PINK FLOYDs sound. It does not fit in well by any means. Same sort of goes for 'Where We Would Be', although I must concede that the PINK FLOYD influenced sound is not on that song. 'Russia on Ice' and 'Hatesong' is where the metal first comes back into entirety. 'Russia on Ice' is more dominated by slow acoustics, with the ending quarter of the epic being devoted to more metal (Same goes for 'Hatesong'). 'Feel So Low' is an extremely slow and relaxing closer, with no remnants of metal and keeps the sound of a soft love song throughout. Although the lyrics may seem a little cliche (a typical love song), it is extremely beautiful and just great to listen to.

I would totally recommend this to anyone seeking great progressive rock work by this band. Prog-fans seem to love it, and I sure do as well.

Go give it a listen.

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  • sploosh
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