I have recently been introduced to a progressive rock band from England called Porcupine Tree. Not only does the band have a cool name (very important), but they’re talented musicians (also very important). I now have three of their albums, and I’m really enjoying them. I’ll talk about the band itself in a minute, but I wanted to mention the way I discovered them, since it’s rather unusual.
While writing some internal documentation for some code I had written, I used a tool called doxygen, which reads specially formatted comments in source code and creates documentation from it. Very nice tool, and while perusing the acknowledgements on the web site, I came across this line:
[Thanks to] the band Porcupine Tree for providing hours of great music to listen to while coding.
I was intrigued by the name of the band, but never thought much about it. A little while later, I was on amazon.ca and looked at my personal recommendations (after having bought some Rush and Dream Theater CDs), and there was a Porcupine Tree album. I immediately remembered the name from the doxygen guy, and since amazon said that the album was recommended because of my interest in Rush and Dream Theater, I was even more intrigued. After looking at some CD reviews, I took a $10 leap of faith. Without ever having heard any of the band’s music, I downloaded their latest album, Fear of a Blank Planet, from puretracks.ca. After listening to that for a while, I went onto eBay and bought the two previous albums, Deadwing and In Absentia.
The boys in PT are big on eyes; of the three albums I have, two of them have covers that show someone with blank eyes – the Blank Planet one reminds me of the I Love It Loud video from Kiss, while the In Absentia one is so creepy that I don’t even like looking at it.
While researching the band, I saw a comparison to Queensrÿche, who I’m a fan of (well, the older stuff anyway). But Steve Wilson’s vocals and Geoff Tate’s are nothing like one another, so it’s kind of hard to hear the similarities. Musically, they’re not that far off, but Porcupine Tree is a little more… well, “psychadelic” isn’t the right word exactly, perhaps “ambient”. Having said that, they remind me a little more of Tool or Dream Theater than Queensrÿche. They all have frequent time signature and key changes and some heavy guitar work, though PT isn’t quite as heavy (well, usually – “The Creator Has A Mastertape” from In Absentia is pretty kick-ass). The vocals are quite different as well – PT’s Wilson, Tool’s Keenan, and DT’s LaBrie can sing cleanly and quietly at times and louder at others, though LaBrie and particularly Keenan can also scream with the best of them (listen to Ticks & Leeches from Lateralus for a good example) while Wilson doesn’t scream. However, PT and DT use a lot more acoustic guitar than Tool, and I’m pretty sure that neither Tool nor Dream Theater use a banjo on any of their recordings.
Amazon recommended PT to me because of both Rush and Dream Theater, but honestly, I don’t see a lot of similarities to Rush. Other than the frequent time signature changes, the music is quite different. They’ve been compared to Pink Floyd as well, though their music is much heavier.
Anyway, they have six other studio albums and a couple of live albums as well, so perhaps I’ll peruse through the eBay listings again. I should probably take a break from eBay, though; I’ve bought 11 CDs (2 PT, one Nine Inch Nails, six Beatles, two Rammstein) through eBay in the last two months. I just love discovering new music.