Firstly, Porcupine Tree. In Absentia is one of the best albums I have ever heard by any band not called U2. It is a masterpiece, full of wonderfully crafted songs with great - though sometimes rather morbid and dark - lyrics. If you've heard Strip The Soul, you know what I'm talking about. There are numerous highlights on that album, but the one that really stands out above the rest is The Sound Of Muzak. The lyrics express my thoughts on modern music so perfectly, and beside that, it's just so perfectly crafted, sung, and played. I never thought Porcupine Tree would top this.
Quite simply, they have.
At first, Deadwing didn't strike me as a better album than In Absentia. It struck me as solid, even great, but not on the level of In Absentia. How wrong was I! A few listens later, and I was starting to think it was better. I am now convinced that it is the superior album. The one thing that did hit me immediately was that somehow, Porcupine Tree had managed to write a song better than The Sound Of Muzak. I expected this much less than I expected them to write a better album! But they most certainly topped The Sound Of Muzak with a song that has prompted me to expand my Top Nine Songs Of All Time: it is called Lazarus. This song is absolutely stunning in its beauty, it is gorgeously uplifting and soothing, and Steve Wilson's vocals are perfect. Lazarus is surrounded on both sides by sensational songs too, darker but incredibly good, especially Halo, with some of the best satirically relevant lyrics.
God is on the cell phone
God is on the 'net
God is in the warning
God is in the threat
God is real, God is truth
God is power, God is proof
God is fashion, God is fame
God gives meaning, God gives pain
You can be right like me
With God in a hole you're a righteous soul
I've got a halo 'round me, I've got a halo 'round me
I'm not the same as you
'Cause I've seen the light and I'm gaining in height now
I've got a halo 'round me, I've got a halo 'round me
'Cause I've got a halo 'round my head
The song on the other side of Lazarus is Shallow, and it's a pretty bleak song, but my goodness, it is catchy! Another song that I can't get out of my head is Mellotron Scratch, with its fantastic vocal harmonies on the chorus. And let me just say that Arriving Somewhere But Not Here is an epic track that summarises Porcupine Tree and can rightfully claim a place as one of Deadwing's best tracks. It's got some pretty fierce competition, though!
I would like to make one thing clear, though. As much as I think Lazarus is one of the most incredible songs I've heard, I do believe Dream Theater have topped it. Metropolis Part I: The Miracle And The Sleeper is one of those songs where I can't find something not to love. The ability of Petrucci, Portnoy, Myung, and Moore is truly extraordinary, and their exceptional musicianship is wonderfully showcased in this song as are LaBrie's magnificient vocals, and just like on their other tracks, they certainly don't write lyrics undeserving of praise! I would provide a selection of my favourite lines, but I would simply be typing the entire song! I must say, though, that despite the presence of fantastic tracks such as Metropolis, Pull Me Under, Another Day, and Learning To Live, I do not feel that Images And Words is as good as Awake. 6:00 is one of the best album openers I have ever heard, featuring a great drum intro, and on the same token, Space-Dye Vest is one of the best album closers. I find Space-Dye Vest to be rather haunting, so I paired it with U2's most haunting album closer, Love Is Blindness (of course, if anyone were to counter that and say Mothers Of The Disappeared is more haunting, I may be inclined to agree), and that was definitely a great combination. The entire album is superlative from start to finish: for the sake of brevity, just look up a tracklist and imagine "awesome" written beside each title. I simply cannot pick a best song from that album, though I'll say that The Silent Man is my personal favourite. That of course does not do the songs justice, but this is for the sake of brevity, you see.
I'd now like to present my expanded list of the Top Eleven Songs Of All Time according to Axver, in which the first nine are set in stone and unlikely to change any time soon. The other two are new inclusions and are yet to pass the test of time.
1. Where The Streets Have No Name, U2: perfection. Epic, vast, majestic, and perfect.
2. Bad, U2: the zenith of minimalism.
3. The Unforgettable Fire, U2: haunting and atmospheric, painting vivid sonic landscapes.
4. One Tree Hill, U2: emotionally, mournfully, and lyrically powerful.
5. City Of Blinding Lights, U2: epic and anthemic rock combine with heart and soul.
6. Heartland, U2: pure beauty and poetry.
7. New Year's Day, U2: the pinnacle of political rock, incredible and fresh in sound.
8. Acrobat, U2: dark U2 at their peak.
9. Gone, U2: intelligent and simply awesome rock.
10. Metropolis Part I, Dream Theater: see above paragraph.
11. Lazarus, Porcupine Tree: also see above.
I'm tempted to put U2's God Part II in twelfth, but I fear that may be a bit 'flavour of the month' of me. After listening to other music for a few days, returning to U2 was, in a word, awesome. Everything somehow sounded better, and as I was innocently enjoying my playlist, God Part II came on. Before I knew it, Larry's drumming was right inside my head and I found myself exclaiming "this is one of the most incredible songs ever written!" And goodness, this song rocked so much live. "I ... I believe in ... THE EDGE!"
On a completely different note, thanks to the awesome cat_incarnate, I enjoyed Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens on the flight home. Truly, if you like the Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy or if you love to see the Apocalpyse and Apocalyptic literature such as Left Behind mocked, then this is the book for you. It is wonderfully hilarious, and the writing is top notch. One of my favourite parts, though, wasn't even in the book itself, but in the dedication, where the authors dedicate the book to "G. K. Chesterton, a man who knew what was going on". Now, why haven't you heard of him? Chesterton was only one of the greatest writers and thinkers of the last 150 years, and as athanasius7 ably illustrates, his influence is enormous. I am just about finished reading The Innocence Of Father Brown, a collection of Chesterton's wonderful short mystery stories. This man was not just a writer (though he was a brilliant one, able to write at the highest standard in an array of genres), but a brilliant artist with his words, capable of creating vivid textures and stunning landscapes, while at the same time weaving a complex tale into a few small pages. He had the gift of making the extraordinary seem tame and the normal seem bizarre - for the simple reason that sometimes they are, and if anyone had the common sense to see it, Chesterton did. Really, why are you reading this? Go read some Chesterton instead.