Porcupine Tree - On The Sunday Of Life
Psychedelic Rock
18 songs (1:15:47)
Release year: 1991
Porcupine Tree
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

For a band which began as a joke, Porcupine Tree has become something very serious, yet few now give much heed to the band’s earliest releases. Steve Wilson created a imaginary band, a lost 70s legend called The Porcupine Tree complete with made-up history, which led to releases of limited cassettes of music in 1989 and 1990 – releases that were successful enough for the newly-formed Delerium label to sign the ‘band‘ (Wilson and a friend) and give its music an ‘official’ release. On The Sunday Of Life collects Wilson’s favourite songs from these two releases into an eighteen track-double album, at first limited to 1000 but selling so well that it has remained in print ever since. Listening in retrospect, fans of the band’s modern sound may well find themselves pretty nonplussed at this highly experimental mixture of psychedelic and space rock, moving from ambient flute pieces to the sort of whimsical nonsense that wouldn’t be out of place on early Pink Floyd releases.

It’s mostly Wilson experimenting with whatever he wants. Tracks like Jupiter Island do give a real hint at what would come, however, a persistent backing beat propping up eerie electronic effects and Wilson’s youthful yet recognisable voice providing the melody and hook. There’s an amateur charm to it that would make for an enjoyable listen even if other tracks such as the ten-minute Radioactive Toy weren’t far better, relaxing keyboards soothing at the same time as the classic rock soloing excites, and the eerie vocals half-chant, half-whisper in the background. The lengthy, ambient outro to the track is as brilliant as the preceding ‘rock’ part – to be honest, this album is only really brilliant if the sort of jazz-tinged meander that pops up in Third Eye Surfer and the like is your thing. There’s little point in listening other than idle curiosity if you’re likely to skip past these moments, as the actual ‘songs’ are relatively few and far between.

Having said that, when these oases in the desert do appear they seem extra brilliant by virtue of their surroundings, The Nostalgia Factory’s poppy beat and interesting build-up to a wonderfully melodic soundscape quite fascinating. Even back then, it seems, Wilson had a knack for oddly timeless songwriting that pleasures the ears as shamelessly as the brain. Nine Cats is another good example, Wilson’s vocals echoing over a backing strum and sparse keyboard sounds, before a strange beat begins and the song gets denser, filling up the less than four minutes running time wonderfully. He’s a master at using space effectively, the loud/quiet dynamics of Footprints working a treat, and the closing one-two of This Long Silence and It Will Rain For A Million Years moving from fast-paced post-punk/electronic drama to quiet guitar ambience, even the latter’s eventual foray into new-age territory surprisingly engrossing.

I’ll admit to enjoying On The Sunday Of Life a lot. Little silly moments like the creepy whispering of Space Transmission may be obvious tricks to make in this style, but it works effectively in these surroundings. Linton Samuel Dawson’s cartoon vocals will annoy many, but in my present relaxed mood it’s amusing enough to pass the grade, and the rap-tinged And The Swallows Dance Above The Sun is a nice foray into dance music. Ultimately, On The Sunday Of Life is all too comparable to Pink Floyd’s debut The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (whilst being nowhere near as good, of course!). It has its standout tracks that are worth the price of purchase alone, but also features plenty of filler that you’ll either enjoy for what it is or skip past every time. Those new to the band should look later in its discography if they want to fall instantly in love, fans will eat it up. All in all, more than worth hearing if you’re curious.

Killing Songs :
Jupiter Island, The Nostalgia Factory, Radioactive Toy, Nine Cats, Footprints, It Will Rain For A Million Years
Goat quoted 79 / 100
Other albums by Porcupine Tree that we have reviewed:
Porcupine Tree - Up The Downstair reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Porcupine Tree - The Incident reviewed by Goat and quoted 79 / 100
Porcupine Tree - Deadwing reviewed by Boris and quoted 89 / 100
Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream reviewed by Khelek and quoted 94 / 100
Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun reviewed by Khelek and quoted 91 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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