I know what you're thinking: A 55 minute song?! Well, yes and no. It is more of a song cycle, a collection of songs meant to be listened to in a single sitting and all thematically linked, but also listenable as individual pieces. In regards to the theme, well, I'll just let Mr. Wilson explain that. "There was a sign saying ‘POLICE – INCIDENT’ and everyone was slowing down to rubberneck to see what had happened... Afterwards, it struck me that ‘incident’ is a very detached word for something so destructive and traumatic for the people involved. And then I had the sensation that the spirit of someone that had died in the accident entered into my car and was sitting next to me. “The irony of such a cold expression for such seismic events appealed to me, and I began to pick out other ‘incidents’ reported in the media and news,” continues Wilson. “I wrote about the evacuation of teenage girls from a religious cult in Texas, a family terrorizing its neighbors, a body found floating in a river by some people on a fishing trip, and more. Each song is written in the first person and tries to humanize the detached media reportage.”
The song cycle begins with "Occam's Razor," a heavy, ominous piece that leads perfectly into "The Blind House," which may contain some of PT's heaviest music. From here, the cycle carries through the epic transitional piece "Great Expectations" and the reserved "Kneel and Disconnect." Then the album throws you a curveball. "Drawing the Line" begins with some rather ominous vibraphone and an eerie vocal line, leading up to one of the most strangely happy sounding, pop-punky choruses I've ever heard PT do. And just when I think nothing can surprise me after that, the cycle continues with the title track, which is easily one of the creepiest sounding, most industrial songs the band has done. It reminds me a lot of Nine Inch Nails. From here we move through the oddly cheerful "Your Unpleasant Family" and the electro-choral "The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train," and onto the 11 minute centerpiece, "Time Flies." One of the more autobiographical songs Wilson has done lyrically, it begins with a staccato guitar rhythm that vaguely reminds me of "Trains." "I was born in '67, the year of Sgt. Pepper and Are You Experienced?," Wilson sings. "After a while, you realize time flies." This leads into an interesting little proggy instrumental tangent before returning to the beginning rhythm and concluding. Next is "Degree Zero of Liberty," which is eerily similar to the first track. Then "Octane Twisted" comes along, once again showing off Wilson's talents for layering vocals, beginning softly, but growing into a heavy riff-o-rama. "The Seance" is next, a mostly acoustic, uneasy piece, which repeats the lyrics of "Octane Twisted" at the end before leading into the heavy instrumental "Circle of Manias." Finally, the piece concludes with one of my favorite PT moments, the mostly acoustic "I Drive the Hearse." "Silence is another way of saying what I want to say," Wilson sings, again proving that amongst his talents as a prog musician, he can still write a darn good ballad.
Well holy crap. That's disc 1 and I'm tired. Disc 2 is still exceptional though, for those who worried it would pale in comparison to the first. "Flicker" is a great softer song, and "Bonnie the Cat" is probably one of the weirdest things they've done. I don't even know how to describe it. But yeah, holy crap. Steven Wilson continues to blow me away.