Album Spotlight: Porcupine Tree – “Fear of a Blank Planet”


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1. Fear of Blank Planet 

As “Fear of a Blank Planet” fades in, Porcupine Tree wastes no time in addressing the issues they have on their collective mind. We are introduced to a certain boy: Well, he’s more like a robot or a vegetable. He spends his days absorbing propaganda, entertainment, and vice. Yet, he’s also bored. He’s trying everything he can find, yet he also lacks real curiosity. He simply does what everyone else does.

“How can I be sure I’m here?/ The pills that I’ve been taking confuse me/ I need to know that someone sees that/ There’s nothing left, I simply am not here”. The boy has tried everything. He’s constantly baked. He’s addicted to porn, though he admits it’s losing the sensation it once had. His entire life has been spent in pursuit of sensation and the next big high, but it’s all so empty. He thinks of every possible “rebellious” idea, action, and substance he can try because all he really cares about is, well, nothing. His mind lacks clarity.

Apathy. When you simply don’t care and when you lack any kind of respect, life becomes a dull, empty void of meaningless actions. When a disgusting, inhuman attitude prevails; feelings become numb.  Your conscience becomes seared. Nothing is new. “In school I don’t concentrate/ And sex is kinda fun, but just another one/ Of all the empty ways of using up the day”. Life becomes nothing more than a time drain, waiting for the inevitable end.

This boy is a sad case of what we see everywhere nowadays.  Maybe this type of person has always existed, I suppose. He gets lost in other people’s worlds, as the TV flickers eternally. He absorbs so much information that he has no more room for his own thoughts, his own desires, or his own dreams. What he has become is not quite human. He has become some sort of empty puppet. Some sort of sheep. There’s a kind of feeling deep within that needs satisfied, but he can’t ever sate the desire. He’s running on empty. Running running running.

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2. My Ashes 

“I will stay in my own world/ Under the covers/ I will feel safe inside”.  Wow.  This beautiful, emotional track is the second song on “Fear of a Blank Planet”.  In the first track, we saw the desperately crude and hopeless state of a certain boy, an “everyman”, if you will.  Yet, within “My Ashes”, we begin to be able to empathize with this young boy.  There is more to him than disrespect, vice, and cowardice.  There is so much more.

This boy is lost.  He’s been led by the hand by his parents his whole life, and he never managed to learn anything.  They never taught him anything, especially responsibility or self-care.  His parents led him into their own problems, and heaped them upon his head.  Out of love, he accepted their problems, but now he’s running on empty.  His life has become meaningless because all of his dreams and needs have never been important to anyone else, so why they should they be important to him? He’s lived his whole life solving other people’s problems.  Is this really a way to live?

If only he could go back and save himself.  He can imagine himself as a boy, lost in the fog.  Helpless.  Unnoticed.  If only he could rescue that boy; maybe, maybe life would mean something more.  Maybe he would stop waking in a cold sweat every night.  Maybe this empty feeling in his chest would pass.  Maybe.

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3. Anesthetize

Anesthetize me. Numb me from this cold, meaningless world. This third track on “Fear of a Blank Planet” presents us with the world’s answer to such a troubled person as this boy. “I simply am not here/ No way I…/ Shut up, be happy/ Stop whining please”. The world doesn’t want to hear the self-loathing or the depression coming from this youth’s lips. They don’t want to hear his hopelessness in a search for meaning amid the TV screens and the mall crowds. He dodges in and out of the mass of bodies, but can find nothing but dust and greed.

That dust is within him, too. “The dust in my soul/ Makes me feel the weight in my legs/ My head in the clouds/ And I’m zoning out”. The pointlessness of his existence—the exhaustion of his heart—makes him drag his feet. It numbs his mind to anything that feels meaningful or important, as any feeling in him just feels fake. Artificial smiles crowd his face and eyes. He can’t escape them.

Again, the world doesn’t want to hear him. Just be happy. Just stop thinking at all. Underneath the apathetic, rough exterior; this boy actually does have depth. Underneath the veil of sarcasm, he longs for love and meaning. There are memories, though, that are quite faint. Memories that make him feel warm: Warmth within this cold, blue world is all he desires. All he wants is to be wanted. Is that too much to ask?

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4. Sentimental

“I don’t really know/ If I care what is normal/ And I’m not really sure/ If the pills I’ve been taking are helping”.  Drifting in a world of sadness, floating in a void of despair: The boy we’ve been following has shown himself to be something more than all the reckless boredom that he exhibits on the outside.  Wildly bored.  Numb day and night.  A world of pain lives inside his chest, and apathy becomes his closest friend.

Why care what is normal?  Why care what is right?  The world is a cruel place either way.  “I’m wasting my life/ Hurting inside/ I don’t really know/ And I’m not really sure…”  He doesn’t care.  He doesn’t want to grow old, but he doesn’t want to live right now, either.  He doesn’t want responsibility, but he still wants meaning.  And no one cares.  No cares where he’s gone.  No one cares what’s inside that head of his.  So much is expected of him, but no one cares to explain or teach him anything.  Can this really go on forever?  Can our youth be left to their own devices again and again?  Is a blank planet inevitable; as passion, substance, and meaning get lost in the ages?  As the world ends, humanity will be lost in boredom.

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5. Way Out of Here 

Sadness and emptiness do terrible things to our minds. The fifth track on “Fear of Blank Planet” shows us just that. The boy is missing his girl. He’s missing his love. She was his only anchor in this sea of confusion and coldness, but now she’s gone. He doesn’t want to remember her, but she’s all he can think about now.

“Way out, way out of here/ Fade out/ Fade out, vanish”. He just wants a way to escape this life. He even ponders just ending it. He’s tried to escape into vice and entertainment: He’s tried to stop thinking, and simply become one of the “normal” zombies that populates the local malls and “hang outs”. He can’t. There’s too much feeling, too much depth, and too much complexity of emotion. All he can do is become an apathetic mess. But, even that’s not working. All he can do is try, but he’s ready to end it all still.

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6. Sleep Together

It doesn’t end well for this boy. “This means out/ This is your way out/ Do or drown/ Do or drown in torpor”. Forget it. Forget pondering the profound. Forget remembering love. Get lost in lethargy (torpor). He was almost there. He was almost to the point of healing and growth; but now, back down to the apathetic abyss.

Don’t use your mind. Shut it out. Close it down. Indulge in sex and mental complacency. This life means nothing, after all. It’ll be like he isn’t even here. It will be as if he left this planet altogether. Stop caring. Start detaching. “This is fate/ This is your escape/ Leave here now/ Leave here like it’s over”.  A planet of blank people is inevitable as long as we ignore the needs of the next generation.

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SPOTLIGHT CONCLUSION

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Porcupine Tree’s “Fear of a Blank Planet” explores the depth of human apathy and youthful recklessness. Along the way, though, we find out that something at the very heart of humanity is the seed from which these things spring.

The boy we followed was lost and immature. Yet, he suffered from things that we all suffer: Lost love, a search for meaning, and an unbearable stress under the load that the world bestows upon him. Were we really any different? As youth, did we handle pressure maturely, or did we escape into vice, amusement, and vacant minds? I know I did horribly stupid things when I was young, and it just goes to show how this world lays so many expectations upon young people.  If you don’t agree, you might be part of the problem.

Can’t we just be human? Can’t we just love each other? All this boy wants is meaning in life. It’s almost like there is a missing link to all of this. He placed his meaning in something that was temporary: so-called love.  But that ended abruptly, and now he has nothing, and that resulted in him feeling like he himself is nothing. This boy thinks that he misses his lover, but he just misses the feeling that he means something to someone. Can’t we just love each other without jealousy and selfishness getting in the way? The world is placed on the shoulders of all of us, it seems; and some of us definitely handle it better than others. But why do we have to have such high expectations for each other?  Why do we expect the world to endow us with meaning? Isn’t being human enough? Sadly, that’s not how it is.

And the youth suffer. They suffer mentally, physically, socially, and most of all, spiritually. Their minds are a battleground that require less war and more love. We want control. They just want to be understood. So, they escape. They run away into a cold stare, or hide in petty materialism or entertainment. If we aren’t careful, we will chase them to the edge, from which they will never return. We will create a world of sad eyes and grimacing faces: a blank planet that will have no life, no humanity, and no motivation. If we don’t care about this enough, perhaps this blank planet has already arrived.

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Porcupine Tree

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One response to “Album Spotlight: Porcupine Tree – “Fear of a Blank Planet”

  1. Pingback: Album Spotlight: Porcupine Tree – “Fear of a Blank Planet” | Progarchy: Pointing toward Proghalla·

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