Google+ Followers

Monday, February 24, 2014

Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet: Steve Wilson Series part 3


        The Fear of a Blank Planet music video protagonist, a blonde-haired kid named Robbie is based upon the book Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis. This kid, Robbie spends all day and night in his room - the curtains always closed. His mental state is always dark; he can barely speak a sentence; he has complete hatred for his parents; He is always bored; He spends most of his time playing Playstation. He wears a hood like the black-eyed kids from the badlands. 33
       This lifestyle leads to a drug fueled euphoric climax. The album's third track, Anesthetize, portrays this 10 minutes into the song. The euphoria makes you feel cooler than anything, and above it all. Truly nothing else matters because all you efforts have been worth it. Your efforts have always kept going and the solo reflects this: the rhythm section continues throughout the solo. You feel valuable at this moment. And, maybe for the first time in a while, you are lovable. Fear of a Blank Planet addresses and expresses a teenage lifestyle totally devoid of curiosity; one of angst, boredom, prescription drug use, endless video games and internet pornography. 50 plus minutes of continuous music can be broken down into six tracks:16 Fear of a Blank Planet, My Ashes, Anesthetize, Sentimental, Way Out of Here, and Sleep Together. For an encore, Porcupine Tree released an additional EP Nil Recurring. This is comprised of four songs: Nil Recurring, Normal, Cheating the Polygraph, and What's Happening Now. Lastly, Steven Wilson's philosophy on this music and lifestyle that threatens the creative achievement of our youth.  

Fear of A Blank Planet
Fear of a Blank Planet lyrics
Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet Music video
        Fear of a Blank Planet opens the album with a catchy acoustic guitar riff. Only it doesn't sound acoustic because of the masterful production. The production makes a fast paced wall of distorted guitars sound punchy yet melodic. The dynamic bass variations, the adventure, the power (Tim Allen grunt). This music reflects the feeling of rolling with insanity. You don't resists losing consciousness. You drive wired at night, death doesn't matter to you. The solo at 5 minutes takes you further into this madness. Wilson's growling vocals stay calm and fast paced balancing the emotions of anger and ennui.16, 17, 21, 31,

Overall, the heavy music focuses on issues of drugs, and the dull enslavement to social media:
The X-box is a god to me A finger on the switch my mother is a bitch my father gave up ever trying to talk to me.
Additional lyrics reflect signs of potential teenage violence:
Don't try engaging me the vaguest of shrugs, the prescription drugs you'll never find a person inside. My face is mogadon (a drug) Curiosity has given up on me I'm tuning out desires the pills are on the rise

A person becomes dead inside when they are constantly pill taking, endlessly playing video games, and perpetually surfing the internet. They always look for the next thrill. Yet, they don't feel loved enough to become empathetic to others. I use to live this lifestyle, and still do to a lesser degree. So I know that a strong sense of inner strength is required in life. However, one should protect themselves from opening up to people who don't care. Still, one should at least be tuned into what makes the community, as a whole, happy.

Another powerful line is: 
Bipoloar disorder, can't deal with this boredom. 
In difficult situations such as bereavement, tradegy, PTSD, depression, and in medical conditions like ADHD, aspergers, bipolar disorder, etc. pills are overly prescribed. Today's kids suffering from bipolar disorder and ADHD need to handle the quieter, boring moments of life well. If they are curious about the world and have a purpose they won't have to drown out their bored thoughts with technological media. 

My Ashes
        Could Wilson be relating to his own teenage years? Well, Wilson started writing this album after reading Brett Easton Ellis' semi-autobiographical novel, Lunar Park. In Lunar Park, a boy transcends his memories by turning them into ashes. 20 The relationship of a father and son is also described, the emotions of forgiveness, and coming to terms with one's past. 32 
       My Ashes is a progressive rock ballad to end all ballads. The slow lavish orchestrations give reprieve from the album's heavy riffs.16 Porcupine Tree makes good uses of piano, mellotron, and sporadic electronic effects for an infectious sound. 21 Thematically, Steven Wilson projects a feeling of loss, and evokes sympathy for the fallen state of youthful life. 17 

Porcupine Tree Anesthetize
       The album flows right into its centerpiece, Anesthetize. The longest track of the album, clocking in at 17 minutes 42 seconds is the catchiest track of the album. Amazingly enough it leaves you wanting more! The big kahuna of rock music builds forebodingly into something bigger, escalating with different phases of emotions and tempos. Alex Lifeson (Rush) provides a moving guitar motif. The down tuned guitars are a relaxing, trippy experience. Anesthetize's hauntingly crawls under your skin. To someone tuned into this lifestyle, this song brings bliss; It's engrossing. 15, 16, 17, 31

The lyrics,
Shut up be happy. Stop whining please
have an edge to them. The music intensifies matching the loner, thrilling lifestyle. As a loner, I would walk across the college campus at night awaiting the impactful solo at 10 minutes.  In pitch dark, I can feel the cold pond water, and momentarily, arrogance acts as a drug, raising me above my day's negative experiences.
       Listening through Anesthetize is always a special occasion. Alex Lifeson of Rush contributes solos that make you feel high; You feel like a one man vigilante army like Tommy Vercetti of GTA Vice City or Paul Cursy of Death Wish. Literal imitation is of course illegal, but the idea is having a strong independent attitude. Give yourself an identity by maximizing a strength like craftiness. And have a backbone! Remember that describing your madness, insane risks, superb victories and dreadful failures always cheapens the story. But you don't care what they say because the fast riff around 7 minutes jump starts your adrenaline:
The dust on my soul  makes me feel the weight in . . . my legs
      I'm watching TV but I find it hard to stay . . . conscious.

The verse tells how pills bring complete apathy to one's life.
We're lost in the mall, shuffling through the stores . . . like zombies
 Then Wilson's voice cracks with hard hitting emotion; he questions living?

Well what is the point? What can money buy? My hands a gun and I find the range . . . God tempt me
An imagery focal point in the video are  the super powerful codeine pills. I can't imagine they are common with teens: 
"this level of halo is tough, pass the codeine man."
 I'm not exactly sure how high Codeine makes you without an interminable extraction process!
      The prelude to the solo gets you ready for your mission. 10 minutes in, now you are cooler than anything; above it all; nothing else matters.  The solo is classic because the rhythm section keeps going throughout the solo. The music is affirming that you have kept your effort going throughout your life and they are worth it. You feel valuable and lovable at this moment. The only negative part of the song is comedown after the amazing solo. A bone-crushing riff with insanely loud drums re-energizes you into the chorus. This takes you into the third segment. 
       Music Video
      The lyrics and music portray oceanic imagery. The oceans of sounds and guitar solos bring joyful surprise to anyone listening to the song for the first time. The video has giant waves -very fitting.  

       The lyrics, music, and chorus of Sentimental are similar to My Ashes, and Normal. They share the theme of stoned teenagers wishing their life away; they use chemicals to numb themselves with lethargy, and lack of ambition.16 These emotionless lyrics include: 
It's no fun to be told you can't blame your parents anymore
And I'm not really sure If the pills I've been taking are helping. I'm wasting my life, hurting inside. 
Sentimental opens with spare, echoed piano chords. Gavin Harrison's light jazzy drumming adds to the bleak and hazy musical surroundings. Add a smoky haze of phased guitars and the chorus over that and you have an anthem for dulled teenagers.11

Porcupine Tree Way Out Of Here lyrics
       Way Out of Here features Robert Fripp's swirling and mesmerizing guitar playing 16. The lyrics carry the timeless theme of kids not relating to their teachers, parents, relatives, and coaches. In my reflection of teenage angst, boredom, and escape; I am drawn to the escape aspect.  I escape by doing something so engaging I use all my skills, guts, and ingenuity; this raises me above my work life and social life. Although these riffs are most enjoyable when you are high, Wilson only observes this lifestyle, he never advocates it.  
The chorus is particularly great:
Way out Way out of here Fade out Fade out vanish
This is definitely my favorite part of the song. Onto the last track of the album. 

Sleep Together
      Wilson amorally states love is the answer when musically capturing the moment of one slipping into unconsciousness.16 Sleep Together is about impure love and suicide; very much like Romeo and Juliet dying together. They have relieved the pressure, emotion, and anger. Is Sleeping Together the answer for one whose lifestyle consists of endless video games, boredom, escapism, drugs, and angst? For many, the answer is revitalizing one's curiosity about the world.   
       Wilson's buzzy, meticulously-distorted solos were crafted touring on the road. They reach a frenzy in Sleep Together.14 Robert Fripps' soundscapes create a groove-oriented trance. 15 The music embraces the wild, drugged lifestyle. The sensationally dramatic audio atmosphere pumps me up before important tennis matches. 17 

Don't ever again deal with youtube skipping through an emotional solo of your favorite song. Listen with headphones for the best listen. Click on the amazon link below to get the mp3 album. 
Fear Of A Blank Planet
       Later that year, Porcupine Tree released Nil Recurring to complete Steven Wilson's musical statement. 
Nil Recurring EP
Nil Recurring
       Robert Fripp plays lead guitar in this instrumental. The music elicits the dark imagery inside a drug-fueled wanderer's mind. His lifestyle puts him in a conscious trance. You wonder what your friends, current and former, think of you when you hear the tempo changes and cool sounds.

       To illustrate the lifestyle Steven Wilson refers to I will tell a story based upon the bike ride beyond comprehension. Inside a pitch dark dorm room, the shades and curtains are down; a college student lies in bed feeling only ennui for his classes that previously excited him. Somehow, he trudges through his classes, staying in good graces with his professors and classmates. He has laid low in the eye of his social storm. He is now alone, the day is his, his time of full flight in night excursions has begun. His adrenaline is flowing; the music is bad-ass; His thoughts and actions are building into something. At dusk he rides across the library-garage-parking-lot, stopping at the edge. He readies himself to ride down the 90 degree grass cliff. He must make it between a street lamp and the library wall. This could be his last action before death or hospitalization. He rolls down, he skids but makes it. He has cheated death! Jubilation! The ecstasy leads him on a bike ride with unlimited energy; He has no further thoughts of time and place. 
        He reaches 40+ mph riding through the dimly-lit, hilly, double-lined roads of rural Worcester, Massachusetts. He listens to music with soundscape variations that resemble the eerie sounds of night. He hears the buzzing of gigantic power lines he can't see. 
       The mind altering drugs convince him of having extra energy, so he hikes 'til the morning. He finds a wintry dried forest, and sees wild turkeys. He walks by a house with an old dog sitting in the front yard. He hasn't spoken with another human soul in over a day. 

Steven Wilson humorously tells the story of learning the intensely dark riff of Normal. Robert Fripp told him to practice for 6 months, he tells the crowd he has practiced for one week. The theme of teenage boredom and anger continues:
But am I here? It's kind of hard to tell. I do a good impression of myself. But what's normal now anyhow? 
Our mental presence isn't here. We pretend to be who we want to be. The endless social media, internet, video games drown out our souls. But how much of that distraction is normal anyhow? The drugs associated with this lifestyle may lead a person occasionally getting violent:
Prescription drugs they help me through the day. And that restraining order keeps me well at bay. But what's normal now anyway? 
The immediate high makes video games funner, but you become an angrier person. This leads to unforeseen fights, lost friendships, and a restraining order or two. However, any friends who stand by you in this period of your life, are invaluable. 

      During the bike ride beyond comprehension the protagonist asks himself, "Am I normal?" and "Do I want to be?" No, he answers. But the song relates to people in general who use marijuana and find life without a purpose. To deal with this boredom they use prescription drugs. They feel good but jittery and damage his or her body. Is this all necessary for treating mild cases of autism? Society should let boys be normal. This is loud and unfocused with schoolwork. We should change the education system that coops these kids in a classroom reading the dead language of modern textbooks 7 + hours a day. No wonder they are excited on Friday! But if kids had more free time parents would not have peace and quiet. How important is education, when most schools and universities aren't able to directly connect students to a job if he or she has a sub par GPA? All this may lead kids to drink after school. Steve Wilson sings about how they have no feelings when drinking indoors,  
Gotta see the waves not the wine bottle
Do something that breaks the norms of society. And be spontaneous for this excursion. Don't prepare!

Cheating The Polygraph
The guitars expresses the blackening coldness of one's soul. She doesn't feel loved. When she can't rise above this, she turns to drugs and alcohol. In this puritanical society, we decided alcohol prohibition was ineffective but drug prohibition is effective. In effect, one can't tell the truth about his or her usage. Because this would bring further trouble without extra human care. As a result, one lies; As the lies grow deeper the soul gets darker. But if this music leads to a big victory in your life, you can find relief from bad feelings. 

What Happens Now
Porcupine Tree What Happens Now
       Around four minutes, the rocking music symbolizes the hardcore lifestyle. The unique sad sounds wandering from the main beat represent the protagonist questioning life's unknown. Moreover, she questions: if her soul can be saved?; if violence comes from confusion?; Is death welcomed? or can she persevere? 
       The synth and exotic rhythm at the start give What Happens Now a spacey, ethereal quality. The guitar and bass that come in give a more regular pulse but are still quite spacious. To me the lyrics and the way they are delivered feel like a yearning emotion, a sense of being inquisitive and urgent. The lyrics start with "so I got all these things, yeah, so what. In the end you can't take them with you". This suggests an apathy to commercial or shallow things such as possession, material things. 34 
       During the heavy rock part you find yourself stomping the gas pedal in the fast lane. The car jerks ahead quickly, you are ready for death. You might desire to do daredevil stunts for money. In fact at 4 minutes, the song is cranking at full steam. And you have no emotion for cute stories or feelings for victims. 

Aren't you tired of hearing music in low quality on Youtube with constant ads on the side interrupting the songs. Doesn't it bother you when your favorite tune pauses because of slow wi-fi connection (even with the fastest connection). Well, then buy the cd. And support this blog by doing so through my links.

Nil Recurring

Steven Wilson's album approach 
Porcupine Tree's musical evolution has largely shaped the sound of this record. This album is an experience, not simply a few downloadable tracks. Wilson suggests enjoying the album as a whole in its highest quality, remastered CD or vinyl. 
To me, the beauty of music, or the music that I love, are albums. Albums where maybe you don't love every track on the album. But the point is that the album is sequenced as a whole, it's supposed to be listened to as a musical journey. 5
Some say this Porcupine Tree's heaviest music, others say it's Porcupine Tree's most mellow music:
I'm very proud of the fact that Porcupine Tree are continuing to grow and continuing to evolve and the fan base continues to grow. And I am very proud of the evolution in music. It was always important, right from the beginning that, If Porcupine Tree were going to continue, they would never stand still musically. 5 
 Steven's Fear of a Blank Planet is true. Today's children lack the adventurous spirit previous generations had. Everything can be downloaded onto their devices. All they know are Ipods, internet, cell phones, x-boxes, and Playstations. No need to explore the great frontier?4

Steven Wilson says,
And unfortunately, what we are seeing right now is a lot of blankness, a lot of young people right now who don't have the sense of passion or curiosity that my generation had, and that is very sad. I think there are a lot of kids who do, I'm not suggesting this is a complete, 100% issue, but it is a worry to me how all this technology and this information technology and all this information is creating this kind of wall of noise that is very hard to get through now with anything. Because young people, by the age of ten, they've seen everything. They've seen the most hardcore pornography you can imagine, they've been able to download any kind of music, see any kind of movie. They have access to everything. When I was a kid, when I wanted to discover new music, I had to save my pocket money and search the record stores. And I think it is in human nature that the things that come easily to us, we don't really appreciate. And it's the things we have to search for and work hard and invest our time and money and energy in, those are the things we appreciate.5 

Instead, kids get all this music, movies and pornography for free. They have no intrigue or interest in different movies, music, or the opposite sex.
       Also, the fear parents had about kids watching too much TV in the 1970s still holds true. Today this version of the sedentary lifestyle is kids being constantly inundated with Ipods, tv, internet, newspaper, and video games affects their psyche. Their psyche turns into a loner, they are separated from real life and people by a desensitizing diet of video games and the internet.28, 19 It's great we have domain to watch what we find entertaining in our rooms. Hell, I was raised on TV and Youtube. I still get my values there. But outside these things is a world begging to be explored. We need more places to loiter!9
       When I was in sixth grade I obsessively played Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 one afternoon. I got massively frustrated. My parents knew they needed to separate me from the game. So they asked me to take out the trash, and locked me outside. I assimilated with the neighborhood kids and had fun playing outdoors. This activated another side of my brain and I forgot about the video games. Later, I discovered the cheats and played as Private Carrera.  
       Are prescription drugs the answer? Normal boys that desire adventure are given Ritalin to happily conform to the teacher. What about those abusing these drugs?19 The main danger is addiction.  
       In the 1980s, Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet brought the important message of racism to the forefront. 2007 onward, Porcupine Tree's Fear of A Blank Planet has brought attention to the negative impact information technology has on young adults. Wilson is particularly concerned about addiction to drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, and bipolar disorder. These are fun, it's not a right or wrong issue but the effect on kids. That these drugs do treat mild autistic symptoms is evident but so is the fact they may make kids too content to traverse the world.
       Steve Wilson is also concerned about mind-numbing shows like American Idol, Big Brother, other reality tv programs. The shallow culture of media, drugs, internet, and Xbox lull these kids into oblivion. The lyrics of Anesthetize say it all: 
Only apathy from all the pills in me It's all in me, all in you Electricity from the pills in me It's all in me, all in you Only MTV and cod philosophy 19, 21
     Wilson explains why the youth act the way they do, "Unfortunately this whole culture we live in promotes this idea that you are somehow insignificant then you are worthless. If you're somehow not successful, if you're not popular, if you're not famous, if you're not a celebrity, you are somehow worthless." 30

       The intense music continuously focuses on the thematic subject matter throughout the 50 minute Fear of a Blank Planet album and EP Nil Recurring.9 This album has variety - something for everyone. Wilson's narrates over the aggressively played music and dreary atmospherics. Pill clouded listlessness permeates the album. Yet urgency builds during Anesthetize; the musical outburst of double bass drumming and crunching guitars around 11 minutes is so monstrous one wonders if the narrator left bodies dead in his path. This is an unwavering statement about a generation driven mad by its own modern distractions and apathy.15 This intense sense of madness, adrenaline, desperate longing, anticipation, and tension is evoked by the chord progressions of the long, complexly structured songs.14 
      Metal-heads are treated to a continuation of a similar masterful vein as Porcupine Tree's Deadwing. Porcupine Tree has definitely shifted to a more consistently heavier sound and style with this album. This reflects the intensity of the dark, drug-fueled youth.26 Porcupine Tree clamps the album shut with unprecedented surging guitars in the desperate Way out of Here and Sleep Together.29 Fear of a Blank Planet features epic rock tracks with intricate fretwork, symphonic flourishes and dreamy vocals about people's disconnect with society. 22
          The younger generation is so caught up in technological distractions that true music plays too small a role in their lives. For many a lifetime can be built around the love of music. 16 Wilson knows Ipods and cell phones impact the attention spans of listeners. So, Porcupine Tree's ambitious progressive rock pieces don't usually get an undivided listen.5

My thoughts and Summation (thoughts interspersed throughout article) Conclusion
            Fear of a Blank Planet is a catchy opener delving into the full blandness of this teenage lifestyle. My Ashes slows things down with use of pianos, mellotrons, and electronic effects. Anesthetize is the heart and soul of this bedlam with an other-worldly solo. Sentimental reflects the dulling life of pill taking. Robert Fripp's mesmerizing and swirling guitar playing provide you with a Way Out of Here. Sleeping Together most likely isn't the answer to teens entrenched in the lifestyle of video games, boredom, escapism, drugs, and angst. 
           Porcupine Tree later released Nil Recurring to finish their musical explorations. The nothingness leads some to disregard safety, time, and perspective to go on an unforgettable yet depressingly lonely adventure. What is normal anyhow? Teens lie about their drug and alcohol usage to avoid external trouble that only furthers his or her feelings that lead them to use. A better solution to helping teens with their problems is simpler, yet more difficult; namely fixing our faults as we follow our career and life paths. In this way the teens less offended and more understood. What Happens Now has you rocking to the unknown. 
         The principle songwriter of Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson feels Fear of a Blank Planet is best enjoyed as a whole album rather than individual songs. Fear of a Blank Planet is the concept of kids having too soft a life in some ways. This lessens their creativity and ability to be awed by the world. Teens take pills, and are lulled into oblivion by the shallow culture of media, drugs, internet, and video games. Musically Fear of a Blank Planet is some of the tightest and most evolved music the band has ever composed. 23 Steven Wilson definitely addresses the vacuous lifestyle of angst, boredom, prescription drug use, endless video games and internet pornography on Fear of a Blank Planet. He does this amorally so the demographic uses the music to enhance this lifestyle. Finally, they are able to take the next step in their journey, reflecting on his or her lifestyle.   

Much has been said about guests on Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet and Nil Recurring. So to set the record straight from the official source of disography, here we are:
Alex Lifeson - guitar solo on Anesthetize
Robert Fripp - soundscapes on Way out of here
John Wesley - backing vocals
Nil Recurring
Robert Fripp - lead guitar on Nil Recurring
Ben Coleman - electric violin on What Happens Now?25
































32. (saki1452)

33. (Monsters and Mysteries in America, Badlands 5/5/13)

34. (Youtuber Tam Hewitt-Baker)