What I said back then:
Nothing. I’d never even heard of them back then.
What I think now:
Just when I thought I’d wriggled free of ‘popular’ or ‘rock’ or even ‘Progressive’ music…
There now follows the first of two memories which deal with 2009 and the fact that my mother was dying while I was living 5000 miles away. This had not been in the plan when we moved, although it is an inevitable part of what you consider before you undertake a move like that. For all that we knew that such things were possible, having already lost Zoe’s mum, we felt that there would be a good few years left before we would have to face such things. However, fate deals the cards it deals, and I found myself flying back and forth across the North Atlantic several times that year.
On the first trip, the entire family went, and while we were keeping things as light as possible, even the boys knew deep down that they were saying goodbye to Grandma. I wasn’t in denial, but I was open to distractions, and music turned out to be one of them. Before boarding the return flight, I picked up a copy of a magazine devoted to Prog Rock.
I’m not prone to public self-analysis, but it’s pretty clear what was going on there – I was revisiting my youth; the time before any of my immediate family showed any signs of encroaching mortality. I read happily articles on ELP and Rush, and several others I had mostly ignored at the time, and I felt a certain nostalgic pull.
There was also a list of the 100 best Prog albums, or at least, that’s how I remember it. I’d have struggled to name 100, of course, but I was intrigued by the top 10, which featured pretty much the albums you’d expect, and one I’d never even heard of; Porcupine Tree’s In Absentia.
Since I was, to a greater or lesser degree, familiar with the others, I resolved to make myself familiar with that one. I downloaded it, and played it incessantly al that summer. If you’d asked me what the music reminded me of, out of context, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd and so on wouldn't have really registered – it’s modern rock music, of the type that the likes of Muse seem to be able to make effortlessly popular.
Only, to these ears, somewhat better – less bombastic and more, well – personal.
And I think it’s the personal which resonated. These aren't songs which particularly related to my situation that summer, but they were songs which did genuinely seem to matter. I loved the sweep of them, the power of ‘Blackest Eyes’; the industrial edge of ‘The Creator has a Mastertape’; the melancholy of ‘Heart Attack in a Lay-by’, and most of all, the honest appraisal of ‘The Sound of Muzak’ – a subject dear to my heart.
There’s another memory, as we’ll see shortly which is the sound of the autumn of 2009, which reminds me of the sadness and the turmoil, but this one reminds me of that uncertain summer, and how reconnecting with the music of my youth somehow kept me grounded enough to do what had to be done.
More Porcupine Tree music naturally came my way. They are something of a side project these days, it seems, but that suits me, because I need time to catch up with things like ‘ Lazarus’ or ‘Arriving Somewhere but not Here’, or ‘Pure Narcotic’
Enough lists. Go try some, as they say round here.