Porcupine Tree - Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991 - 1997

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Delerium Records/Kscope
Catalog Number: SMADD0851
Format: CD
Total Time: 146:19:00

Retrospectives of a band's career often run the risk of being hit or miss, depending on who is actually compiling the tracks and overseeing the quality of the product. However, the fact that Steven Wilson was fully involved in this collection of tracks spanning the first six years of Porcupine Tree's career reflects the meticulous care that he has invested each of his band's releases.

Stars Die could be considered a greatest hits (if you discount the fact that the band have since released three other studio albums), but I'd imagine that Wilson would probably cringe at the thought of his songs being considered "hits." However, this collection is certainly very representative of the band's development from Wilson's experimental beginnings with On The Sunday Of Life through to the confident performances on Signify. All the highlights are here, and for fans who have come on board since Stupid Dream, Lightbulb Sun or even the new album In Absentia, this collection may throw up a few surprises in its diversity of material.

The wonderfully trippy Voyage 34 was perhaps the first milestone in Porcupine Tree's career, with its mixture of psychedelic sounds, Floyd-like guitar motifs and running commentary on the protagonist's acid-enhanced experiences. Voyage was eventually expanded into four parts across a whole cd, but Phase One was the highlight, and it sits very comfortably among the other tracks on disc one.

Mention of the Floyd tends to crop up quite a lot when people talk about Porcupine Tree, and although this has irked Wilson in interviews, you can't help but hear vintage Floyd sound in some of the Tree's early material. The Sky Moves Sideways could almost be considered the band's version of Echoes, but only in terms of themes and structure, rather than any blatant plagiarism. Sure, some of the guitar sounds very similar to Dave Gilmour's trademark style, but the Floyd never experimented with dance rhythms in the way that Porcupine Tree did.

The Floyd might have been respected by the rave generation, but Porcupine Tree went much further and tried to incorporate the sounds and rhythms into their music, and Up The Downstair is a fine example of this. The last time I saw the band live, I wondered how this song would fare against the newer, heavier material, but it turned out to be one the best points of the night, with everyone grooving away as one. This is one track by a progressive-rock band that you needn't be ashamed to ask the DJ to play, although Wilson would take issue at his music being described as progressive rock.

As you may have gathered, Wilson does have a reputation for being an awkward cuss, but I guess it's that single-minded determination that has enabled Porcupine Tree to forge its own path without compromise. Interestingly, the band have released several singles, which is something of a rarity for bands of this ilk these days, but while they might have been designed as promos for the latest album, the rare b-sides have long been sought after by fans because of the quality of the material. So Stars Die also scores on that front, including some of these rare songs on an album for the first time. Although collectors should note that not all the rarities are included, so it's back to the second hand racks for the likes of the Staircase Infinities EP.

However, the inclusion of the alternative take of "Signify" is very welcome, giving listeners a chance to hear the studio version as it was originally put together. I actually prefer this version, with its stronger acoustic guitar presence and the extended coda, previously only heard on the live version on Coma Divine.

Fittingly, the album closes with three other cuts from the Signify album, which was effectively the end of a chapter in Porcupine Tree's progress. "Every Home Is Wired" is a particularly strong track with its unusual chorus, and it's been interesting to see harmony vocals become more prominent in subsequent albums.

So who should buy this album? Well, if you're a fan and don't have the rarities, then there are enough of them to make this a worthwhile purchase. US readers who've recently come across the band via the new album or the latest tour will also find this an interesting introduction to the band, as I believe the early albums are hard to come by in stores, and the chronological running order allows you to trace the band's development.

Alternatively, if you've never heard Porcupine Tree, then this is a good place to start, as the material is slightly more melodic and accessible than the new stuff on In Absentia, and an excellent in-depth booklet quickly brings you up to speed with the band's history and the ideas surrounding each album. Certainly, if you pride yourself in supporting rock that is "progressive" in the truest sense then Porcupine Tree are a band you should take the time to get acquainted with, and Stars Die is a fine way to begin.

Disc A - 1991-93: Radioactive Toy (10:10) / Nine Cats (3:51) / And The Swallows Dance Above The Sun (4:02) / Nostalgia Factory (7:33) / Voyage 34 - Phase One (12:54) / Synesthesia - extended version (7:54) / Phantoms (3:14) / Up The Downstair (10:09) / Fadeaway (6:16) / Rainy Taxi (6:52)

Disc B - 1994-97: Stars Die (5:06) / The Sky Moves Sideways - Phase One (18:37) / Men of Wood (3:34) / Waiting (4:28) / The Sound Of No-one Listening (8:12) / Colourflow In Mind (3:49) / Fuse The Sky (4:33) / Signify II (6:04) / Every Home Is Wired (5:13) / Sever (5:31) / Dark Matter (8:12)

Richard Barbieri - synthesizers, Hammond organ, and mellotron
Colin Edwin - bass
Chris Maitland - drums and percussion
Steven Wilson - vocals, guitars, piano...

On The Sunday Of Life... (1991)
Voyage 34 (1992)
Up The Downstair (1993)
Voyage 34: Remixes (1993)
Staircase Infinities (1994)
Moonloop E.P. (1994)
The Sky Moves Sideways (1995)
Signify (1996)
Coma Divine - Recorded Live In Rome (1997)
Stupid Dream (1999)
Voyage 34 - The Complete Trip (2000/2004/2005
'4 Chords That Made A Million' (2000)
Lightbulb Sun (2000/2008)
'Shesmovedon' (2000)
Lightbulb Sun - Special Edition (2001)
Recordings (2001)
Stars Die: The Delerium Years 1991 - 1997(2002/2005)
Metanoia (2002)
In Absentia (2002)
In Absentia (European version) (2003)
Warszawa (2005)
Deadwing (2005)
Porcupine Tree (2006)
Fear Of A Blank Planet (2007)
Nil Recurring (2008)
The Incident (2009)

Arriving Somewhere... (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: January 12th 2003
Reviewer: John Stout

Artist website: www.porcupinetree.com
Hits: 992
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]