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13 January, 2005

'Shallow', well, is

Though we still have a while to wait until the 21 March release of the new Porcupine Tree album, 'Deadwing' (the special edition will be available by preorder before that date), their record label included one track, 'Shallow', on a sampler CD issued to radio stations.  Possibly breaking some sort of embargo, WWUH FM, in Hartford, Ct., broadcasted it last Sunday.  P-Tree fans being what they are, the simultaneous web feed was recorded and made available unofficially, so the 'hardcore' fans (for once, I'm including myself in that clique) have already heard it.  I won't offer a link, as the download has already been removed, understandably.

Also understandably, the Dark Matter Yahoo! Group, frequented by that 'hardcore' and those close to the band (promoters, instrument techs, etc.), has seen a lot of discussion of the track. It'd be a fair summary to say that the majority view is negative, and even those stating more favourable views are hoping it's unrepresentative of the album as a whole. 'Shallow' is to be released as the first single (as a promo available to radio stations in the US, but only available for sale in Europe, with non-album bonus tracks), so maybe they've deliberately chosen something instantly accessible and commercial.
[Update 29/01/05: it is available for sale in the USA, after all, as a download single]
[Update 31/01/05: Wahey! 'Shallow' isn't going to be the CD single!]

I'm afraid I'm underimpressed too. It's not awful - actually it's okay; pretty good at very high volume, really - it's just so, well, mainstream. At least for the first 20-30 seconds (which matter!), it really could be anyone. Nothing at all stands out as special, or grabs me. As was said at Dark Matter:

If Shallow came from a band I didn't know I wouldn't be making an effort to hear more.
Hence, I think I'm saying this is a poor choice for a single, if the purpose of a single is to showcase the range and typical sound of a band, and draw potential fans into the album and back catalogue.
I wouldn't say 'Shallow' is 'bad'; I think it'll be fine in the context of the album, but not in isolation or as a highlight of the album - I hope....

So, when the single does come out and receives airplay, if you've never heard Porcupine Tree before, please don't base your entire opinion on this one song - they're better than this!

[Update 18/02/05: Brief samples of the German single, 'Lazarus' are now available in various websites. The fan response to this one has been entirely different: universally positive. That's better!]


I wish this was not the case, but - unfortunately - I couldn't agree with you more.

As far as SW's attempts at a catchy radio-friendly single go, 'Shallow' certainly hits rock bottom, IMO. Not that his record so far is impressive (I would call it rather disappointing, from 'Piano Lessons' onwards). I understand that all this is, of course, subjective (hence 'opinions expressed as facts') but perhaps 'The Sound Of Muzak' was the better of the lot, and fused a lot of what SW has tried to instill in his 'catchy' inspired-by-his-cynical-view-of-the-music-business ditties: the pursuit of the riff that can be a 'hook', a slightly unusual time signature, the seemingly unpredictable bursts and fluctuations in dynamics, the textured keyboards underpinning tasteful/often inventive guitar solos... all with the ubiquitous degree of irony thrown for good measure. You can spot the pattern, since 'Piano Lessons', through to '4 Chords...' and so on..... The net result is that none of them had any impact on the mainstream audience (which was probably the aim of that type of single) and none of these tracks would be remembered among the band's most credible efforts; quite a distant cry from the accessible-yet-credible status of 'Stars Die' or 'Waiting'.

It seems to be widely acknowledged among the 'hardcore' (and occasionally the soft-core too) fans that 'Blackest Eyes' was a kind of a sucess in that respect. Most people tend to agree with SW's view that 'BE' encapsulates the diverse aspects of PT's sound. I wouldn't count myself among them, as I find 'Blackest Eyes' and 'Prodigal' by far the least interesting tracks of 'In Absentia', in pretty much the same way I'm not fond at all of 'The Rest Will Flow' and 'Stranger By The Minute'.

I'm also not among those who overtly dislike the band's heavier edge. Given SW's recent interest in the metal side of things, I can understand his forays into heavier territory, with tracks like 'Futile'. Fair enough. But 'Shallow', as you very very succinctly said, is just that: "well,...shallow". It has an Aerosmith-esque / 70s American rock-type of riff (which reminds me of 'Prodigal' because of that), an overall nu-metal air of insignificance into it, a chorus very reminiscent to 'Futile' (which, in turn, was building on aspects of the officially unreleased -and superior, if you ask me - 'Cut Ribbon', only less successfuly so) and nothing more than that.

Not even the usual two or three bars where Richard's synths and/or Colin's bass are allowed to shine, giving a glimpse of what would have been there, had the track not been confined to a 'radio edit'. 'Strip The Soul's 'radio edit' (make that: 'butchered') version was a pretty unimpressive affair too, but the extended version had much more potential. 'Shallow' lacks that potential, I'm afraid.

By now, I'm used to being prone to jumping the gun, upon the first few listens of the 'teaser' track or single from a forthcoming PT album. Therefore I won't let this bias my opinion about the rest of the tracks. I'm just a tad disappointed that SW still insists on going down that route. As if he's still under the illusion that such a track would open PTree any doors or make the radio stations do them any favours.

From every record since 'Stupid Dream' it's as if SW tells fans "those of you loyal and appreciative of the band's effort, don't worry... you can ignore that particular track of the record. It's not for you. It's just a bait for those who don't know us yet. You, the loyal ones, please try to concentrate on the other gems of the album instead." It seems that 'Shallow' will be 'Deadwing's such 'skip-me' track.

Anyway... sorry for the rambling. I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your post, that's all.

Posted by aZiMuTh at January 31, 2005 08:05 PM

Maybe fan opinion does count for something....
It's just been announced that 'Lazarus' is going to be the CD single instead.

Posted by NRT at February 1, 2005 12:03 AM
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