Fortunately, "Fear of a Blank Planet"—a horrid pun on an old Public Enemy album title—rocks a little harder than the average Emerson, Lake and Palmer album. The title track, at a relatively short seven minutes, breaks up its dreamy-pop haze with a few well-placed metal-guitar licks and some angry words from singer-guitarist Steve Wilson. He's not happy with today's world—be it TV, Prozac ("the vaguest of shrugs/the prescription rugs/you'll never find/a person inside") or, ahem, that oh-so-current music trend of grunge ("they sound like Pearl Jam/the clothes are all black/the music is crap").
So, yes, Wilson and his band are stuck in the past. Yet even as a throwback, they cover a wide musical swath. "Anesthetize" has a percussive fury worthy of Tool, while "My Ashes" and "Sentimental" offer up gentler, piano-based musings that could almost be called timeless. Drum beats in "Sleep Together" veer toward trip-hop.
But hardcore fans shouldn't expect any major changes. By the time Rush's Alex Lifeson delivers a tasteful guitar solo in the middle of the 17-minute title-track, Porcupine Tree safely returns to the land of Roger Dean album covers, Lava lamps and bong hits.