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In Absentia

Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

The good old days of the flowing rock n’ roll album have been over for some time.

These days, it’s all about the single or the music video or the endorsements. Back in the old days, rock albums often flowed beautifully as if they were written that way as a single symphony of music that was meant to take you on a spiritual ride of some kind.

Porcupine Tree’s In Absentia takes weird if not interesting melodies that mix together nicely to create a rock album of yore. It’s the kind of album to which you can just turn off the lights, sit back and listen. Some songs may be a little closer to the line leading to "weird" territory, but overall the album is enjoyable.

“Blackest Eyes” is probably the most radio friendly; it sounds like a mix of Rush, The Moody Blues, Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd, and about seventeen other classic rock bands. Other highlights include “Trains,” “The Sound of Muzak” and “.3”

The DVD Audio disc features three audio tracks: high resolution DVD-A 5.1 Surround, dts 5.1 Surround, and PCM 2.0 Stereo. The dts version seems to have the best separation, with instruments that sound fuller even than in the other 5.1 track - though this could be because the system on which we played the disc wasn't completely DVD-A compatible and so we didn't get the full benefit of the DVD-A technology. We usually prefer the DVD-A tracks, though of course the dts ones are no slouches.

Anyway, most of the songs feature guitar riffs that are the predominant element, with vocals taking second billing and the rhythm section contentedly staying in the background. All five channels are used effectively for each element, but at times the vocals tend to drown everything else out in the rear speakers. But then, perhaps they wanted it that way.

Extras on the disc include three bonus tracks, “Drown With Me,” “Chloroform,” and “Futile.” Unfortunately, these are the three low points on the disc. They don’t flow with the rest of the album, so it’s hard to be charmed by them since the charm of the album is the flow, not the quality of the songs (not to say that there’s anything wrong with the quality of the songs, but we were taken by the old fashioned "concept album" flow).

“Drown With Me,” however, makes some of the best use of the 5.1 Surround we’ve yet heard in a song.

There are also music videos for “Blackest Eyes” and “Wedding Nails.” The former is just the band playing a concert in a warehouse or something, and there’s not really a lot to it. The latter, an instrumental, is just a series of bizarre pictures that are more involving than the song itself. Finally, the disc features on-screen lyrics and a photo gallery.

If, like so many people, you can’t stand the crap that you hear on the radio these days, Porcupine Tree is a nice bit of nostalgia, and because it's a DVD Audio version that makes it all that much better.


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