Porcupine Tree gets by in high style


One of the most extraordinary things about In Absentia, the latest album from the underground UK progressive rock outfit Porcupine Tree, is how un-extraordinary it is.

From the snowy electronic atmosphere that floats over the opening notes of “Blackest Eyes” and “Gravity Eyelids” to the overlong guitar lines of “The Sounds Of Muzak” and pretentious pining of “Collapse The Light Into Earth,” the album is full of examples of ambitious production and uber-imaginative songcraft. But you probably won’t notice.

Unlike most of their prog-rock contemporaries and many of their predecessors, Porcupine Tree is skilled at turning interesting musical ideas into thoroughly listenable rock and roll.

There are echoes of Pink Floyd, King Crimson and ELO, to be sure, but tracks like “Gravity Kills” and “Lips Of Ashes” shoo on the ghosts of such outdated idealists by adding blips, skips and drum sampling to the background of their swelling harmonies and heavily layered guitar work.

The group also sidesteps another problematic prog-rock convention: overdoing it.

Think of Rush. How much work is it to sit through an entire album? The riffs are too complex, the changes are too often, the interludes seem endless and the lyrics are never as insightful as Geddy Lee thinks they are. The end result is incredibly lifeless, while still managing to suck the life out of the listener?much like War and Peace does to its infrequent readers.

The last Rush trap is the only one that vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Steven Wilson does fall victim to.

A probe of the In Absentia’s lush verbiage reveals more clich