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Blank Generation

Prickly Porcupine Tree leader has a problem with these kids today.

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If the title and sentiment of Porcupine Tree’s new CD Fear of a Blank Planet seem a tad cynical, they merely reflect frontman Steve Wilson’s current state of mind. “Technology is affecting the younger generation,” he says. “We live vicariously through gadgets. We have iPods and 500 channels of TV. We have drugs for bipolar disorder. And we have Big Brother. There’s a sense that the 21st century is a scary place for a young person.”

The album -- a rage against television, video games, and “download culture” in general -- ties together six songs in a 51-minute suite. Yes, Fear of a Blank Planet is a modern-day prog-rock record. But the British band (which has been making records for 15 years) plays like it’s a tribute to ’70s rock and roll -- no more specific genre required. “The whole idea of the album is disappearing,” says Wilson. “We have this jukebox mentality. Sequencing and flow is going out the window. And that’s become a microcosm of the 21st century.” Wilson builds Fear of a Blank Planet with a flurry of synths, strings, and head-spinning rhythms. There’s even a 17-minute epic called “Anesthetize” that wraps the album’s doubts, desires, and anxieties in an aurally complex ball of confusion. “I wanted to do something on a grand scale this time,” says Wilson. “I wanted it to be a conceptual piece of music that hangs together -- all related lyrically, all related musically. It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.” Yet, for all his apprehensions, Wilson believes hope is on the horizon. He hears it in bands like the Flaming Lips, Nine Inch Nails, and Sigur Rós, and he sees it in a select group of young fans that take the time to dissect the records. But there’s still a long way to go, he says. “It’s hard not to sneer at what’s presented as entertainment and art these days. Look at American Idol -- a program that’s creating a generation of singers who should be singing on cruise ships. How far would Tom Waits get on a program like that?”
Fri., May 18, 7 p.m.

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