Stupid Dream

Stupid Dream is the fifth studio album by British progressive rock band Porcupine Tree, first released in April, 1999. It became the band's best selling album up to the time of its release. According to frontman Steven Wilson, "The album contains both the most accessible Porcupine Tree material to date and the most ambitious”.

The album was recorded at Foel Studios in Llanfair Caerinon, Wales and No Man's Land Studios, Hemel Hempstead, England. The production cost only £15,000. Strings were arranged by Chris Thorpe and Steven Wilson and performed by the East of England Orchestra. The Korean edition of Stupid Dream additionally included the "Piano Lessons" video. It was re-released on May 15, 2006 as both a 2 disc CD/DVD-A set, and double vinyl LP, but the double vinyl LP is only available through Burning Shed, the official Porcupine Tree store. The CD contains a new mix of the album by Steven Wilson, and the DVD-A contains a 5.1 surround mix, two bonus tracks and the video for "Piano Lessons".

Track listing

All songs written by Steven Wilson except as indicated.

  1. "Even Less" – 7:11
  2. "Piano Lessons" – 4:21
  3. "Stupid Dream" - 0:28
  4. "Pure Narcotic" - 5:02
  5. "Slave Called Shiver" - 4:40
  6. "Don't Hate Me" - 8:30
  7. "This Is No Rehearsal" - 3:26
  8. "Baby Dream in Cellophane" - 3:15
  9. "Stranger by the Minute" - 4:30
  10. "A Smart Kid" - 5:22
  11. "Tinto Brass" (Wilson/Barbieri/Edwin/Maitland) - 6:17
  12. "Stop Swimming" - 6:53

DVD-A Edition

The DVD-A, and the new vinyl release of the album also contained the following tracks:

  1. "Even Less" (full version) – 14:07
  2. "Ambulance Chasing" – 6:41

On the DVD-A these tracks are only in 5.1 format.


Steven Wilson said of the album:
"I just wrote about myself this time, certain insecurities and feelings - all the usual miserable singer-songwriter stuff. I've come round to the idea that the most affecting lyrics are always written from a personal point of view."

"When I was writing some of the songs of the album I was very much aware of this contradiction between being an artist, being a musician, trying to be creative and write songs and, then, at the point you finish an album, the music is finished, the creative side is finished, you then have to go out and sell and market and promote. And that's like a completely different experience. It's not a very creative process. It's quite - in some ways - a cynical process going on having to sell your music. But you have to do it. I mean, if a modern musician is going to survive as a musician, you have to - in a sense - 'prostitute yourself' to try and sell your music and your art. And I was very much aware of that contradiction. If you think about that too much, it can drive you crazy, you know. It's an absurd thing to be doing. That kind of led me thinking about when I was a teenager, when I was just starting out and I was interested in being a musician. And I think a lot of teenage kids have this dream of being pop stars, of being a professional musician. This 'stupid dream' of being famous and 'life is a ball and everything is wonderful'. And, of course, actually the reality is that being a professional musician is a very hard work. It can be very heartbreaking, there's a lot of disappointment, there's a lot of hard work, there's a lot of travelling."

Cover art

The album cover photography, taken by Robert Harding, is linked to the album's concept as well.


"Like sitting down with the record company to discuss how we're gonna market this album. And at that point your record becomes a product. And I just had this image of these CDs just coming off this conveyor belt. And obviously it's at complete odds with the music. But I wanted to have this kind of contradictory feel to the color. The bottom line is, the people that get into Porcupine Tree know that we're exactly not the kind of band that ever consider our music in terms of product and shifting units. So I thought it would kind of be fun to put an image on the album which is a comment on that. What could be a more stupid dream than wanting to make music and sell it."

Song details

Even Less

Steven Wilson said of "Even Less": "That track originally was seventeen minutes long and was recorded as a seventeen minute long track, and it had everything on it. Just ridiculous amounts of overdubs on that track."

The song was first released as a one-track promo tape delivered to record stores in order to promote the album. The promotional cassette came in a plain white sleeve with the words "Who Is This?" written in ink and a number 1 in the top right hand corner.

Eventually, Wilson only used the first half of the song on the album. The second part of the song was added as a bonus track on the CD single of "Stranger by the Minute", and the full-length version can be found on the Recordings album, the Stupid Dream 2006 DVD-A reissue (in 5.1 Surround Sound) and the 2LP reissue. The demo version of the song could only be found in the special edition of the "Four Chords That Made a Million" single and was around 15 minutes long with quite different lyrics.

At the end of the track a woman can be heard repeating the pattern of numbers: "0096 2251 2110 8105". About this numbers, Wilson stated: "The counting in 'Even Less' is taken from a recording of a shortwave numbers station. It is understood that these stations are used by intelligence agencies to transmit coded messages to overseas operatives, although no government agency has ever acknowledged the existence of these stations or what their actual purpose might be. They are virtually impossible to decode without the key since the message and its key are generated at random.

Even Less was played live in 1998 as a 15+ minute epic. Later performances were of similar length to the album version. The track has been performed at most Porcupine Tree shows between 1999 and 2005. It also made occasional appearances on the 2007 tour. Live versions can be found on "Warszawa", "XM" and the "Arriving Somewhere" DVD. A version performed by Steven Wilson solo was released on We Lost The Skyline.

Piano Lessons

"Piano Lessons" was the first single for the album and was released just a week prior to the release of it. Steven Wilson has described Piano Lessons as "the most psychedelic Porcupine Tree recording since the early days."

The weird video for the song showed the band shambling around in weird masks and holding up signs with obvious marketing terminology. It therefore fitted in quite well with Wilson's concept for the album, as did the lyrics for this first single from the album, "Forget your own agenda, Get ready to be sold (...) I come in value packs of ten (in five varieties)."

The song was performed live only in 1999. No liveversions have been released offcially.

Stupid Dream

Stupid Dream is a little, instrumental mood piece of 28 seconds with a tuning orchestra and some sound effects.

Pure Narcotic

Pure Narcotic is the third single from the album. This track featured acoustic guitars, close harmony vocals, glockenspiel, pastoral piano and lyrics. The CD single also featured a live version of "Tinto Brass", another track from Stupid Dream.

Also, the lyrics make a reference to Radiohead's album The Bends: "You keep me hating, You keep me listening to 'The Bends'."

The track has been performed live regularly between 1999-2003. A live in studio version can be found on XM II. A live recording from Shepherd's Bush Empire from 2001 was planned to be released on a live album in 2001, which was subsequently abandoned.

Slave Called Shiver

Steven Wilson said of Slave Called Shiver: "It's a very perverse love song, yeah. I mean, it's an unrequited love song. It's a love song with somebody who's obsessed with someone else, but none of that affection is returned. It relates very closely to 'Don't Hate Me', which is a song again about someone who's obsessed with someone from afar. 'Don't Hate Me' is an even more extreme version, because here this person actually begins to follow and make phone calls and, you know, it becomes very unhealthy. 'Slave Called Shiver' is slightly less extreme. It's about someone who's very much in love and obsessed with somebody else. That love is not returned and so there's a slightly violent perverse undercurrent. 'Pure Narcotic' also is very much the same subject".

Slave Called Shiver has been performed live at nearly all gigs between 1999 and 2002, and made regular appearances in 2003. Live versions can be found on Warszawa and XM. It is notable that during live performances the chorus of the song was sung an octave higher than on the studio version.

Don't Hate Me

Don't Hate Me featured the first use of saxophone in the music of Porcupine Tree, courtesy of Theo Travis.

The song was performed live regularly in 1999 and made only rare appearances in the set in 2000 and 2001. It was also performed regularly during the second leg of the Deadwing tour in 2005. A live recording of such perfomance was released on the DVD "Arriving Somewhere". During live performances Theo Travis's flute and saxophone solos have ben replaced by Richard Barbieri's keyboard and Steven Wilson guitar solos respectivly.

This Is No Rehearsal

This Is No Rehearsal is a mixture of semi-acoustic segments with desperate vocals and heavy metal raves, this number was already played live during the 1998 European tour.

Steven Wilson said of "This Is No Rehearsal": "This song was directly inspired by a tragic UK event a few years ago. A child was taken from a shopping mall while his mother was momentarily distracted and was later found dead and tortured near a railway track. The most disturbing thing about the story was that the two abductors/murderers turned out to be children themselves."

Baby Dream in Cellophane

Baby Dream in Cellophane is a short psychedelic track and sounds a lot like early Pink Floyd, especially the rare Floyd track Embryo and the middle piece of Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun. Colin Edwin does not appear in this track, Steven Wilson plays the bass instead.

Steven Wilson has said of "Baby Dream in Cellophane": "The baby in the song is basically singing the song: 'I am in my pram'. And it's quite a cynical song because he's basically saying that the boy's life is almost mapped out already as the child is born, it's already predetermined by society and the baby's kind of singing from the pram if you like, saying 'well, actually no, I'm not going to go down this path that's been laid out for me. I'm gonna break out.' It's almost like a very surreal teen rebellion song. If you imagine Nirvana, if they wrote about rebellious teenagers, I write songs for rebellious babies.

This track was only performed live in 1999, usually in exchange of Pure Narcotic.

Stranger by the Minute

Stranger by the Minute became the second single from the album. The CD single of this song is a very interesting item since it doesn't only contain the second part of "Even Less" but an enhanced PC section with the promotion video of "Piano Lessons" as well.

The song itself features a poppy harmonization in the chorus, featuring drummer Chirs Maitland (which is his only vocal performance on the whole album). Steven Wilson plays the bass on the song, Colin Edwin does not appear.

Strange By The Minute has never been performed live by the whole band. However, Steven Wilson has performed it as a solo guitar/voice numbr on a couple of occasions.

A Smart Kid

With A Smart Kid Steven Wilson returns to a topic he has touched on before in "Radioactive Toy" (a track from their first album, On the Sunday of Life....) The lyrics deal with a sole survivor after a possible nuclear war that gets picked up by an exploring spaceship.

The song has been performed regularly live in 1999 and made few appearances in 2000. It was brought in back to the live set in 2002 and 2003 but only performed occasionally. Then it became a regular during the first leg of the 2005 tour and has been performed quite often during the second leg of the 2007 tour. Despite its long concert history, a live version of A Smart Kid is yet to be released.

It is Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt's favorite Porcupine Tree song. During the final show of the joint Porcupine Tree - Opeth tour (3rd Aug 2003 - Showbox, Seattle, WA) Åkerfeldt joined Porcupine Tree to sing A Smart Kid.

Tinto Brass

Tinto Brass is the only band composition on the album. This typical piece of instrumental Porcupine Tree was seemingly inspired by Italian director Tinto Brass and starts out with some Japanese spoken text.

Regarding the Japanese spoken part of the song, Steven Wilson said: "Oh, yes, it's spoken in Japanese! It's my girlfriend who's Japanese and she's got a film book. I tell you it's so difficult to find anything on Tinto Brass in England. He's completely unknown. I mean, I didn't know who he was. I just saw his name by accident on a video cover. So I'm gradually finding out more and more about him. I kept looking for stuff about Tinto Brass on English film-books and film-guides, but I couldn't find anything at all. And then my girlfriend has some Japanese film-books and so I asked her to have a look in them to see if she could find Tinto Brass' name. And she did. She found this little biography: where he was born, the films he made. So she said 'well, should I translate that for you?' (Because I wanted it to be spoken in the track) and I said 'No, it's great' - I thought - 'I'll have it in Japanese'. So she just read it in Japanese. But it's just a list of his films and where he's from... It's nothing interesting".

The track has been performed on most Porcupine Tree gigs between 1999 and 2003, bu has not been performed since. Three live versions are available: a 1999 board recording on the "Pure Narcotic" single and the 2001 limited German version of "Lightbulb Sun", a live-in-studio recording from 2002 on "XM" and a 2001 version as a free download from the band's official download store (this version is taken from the same concert as the "Warszawa" live recording, but was cut to fit a single CD).

Stop Swimming

According to some Stop Swimming song was heavily inspired by one of Steve Wilson's favourite bands, Talk Talk.

Wilson said of this song: "I found that when I was writing the music for this album a lot of the songs were about me and my relationship with the music industry and how I felt about where I was going in the music business and all that. Things like 'Stop Swimming'... maybe it's time to stop swimming... and this kind of whole impulse to just give up and go with the flow can be very strong sometimes. I mean I've never given into it. I never will."

"This is a very sad song, but if you're like me, I always find the saddest music is also the most beautiful and this is one of my favorite songs that I ever written" (from Warszawa album)

Although the song was never a regular number in the setlists, it appeared on and off on the band's concerts between 1999 and 2002. A live version is available on the album "Warszawa".



External links

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