Band: Gavin Harrison
Album: Cheating the Polygraph
Some tribute albums are genuine labors of love. Most feel more like quick cash-ins. Thankfully, Cheating the Polygraph is something different entirely; it’s not a tribute album as much as it is a challenging and imaginative recreation of its source material.
While Gavin Harrison is best known for his work with the indefinitely suspended Porcupine Tree, he’s contributed his talents to acts such as King Crimson, OSI, and a myriad of others in recent years. Harrison has also continued to enjoy acclaim from music critics and fellow drummers on the national scale, even after his day job disappeared to make room for Steven Wilson’s solo career.
Those who have followed Harrison’s post-Porcupine Tree career know to expect the unexpected, and Cheating the Polygraph is no exception. While I admit I was initially skeptical of the idea of turning Porcupine Tree into a big band, I now just feel guilty for ever fearing Harrison would put out something as thoughtless as a note-by-note recreation with jazz instrumentation. I can’t emphasize enough that Cheating the Polygraph is not a Porcupine Tree cover album. It’s a completely new perspective on Porcupine Tree. The melodies may be familiar, but Harrison and his band have painstakingly recreated these songs from scratch, often painting them on completely new emotional landscapes. In fact, if I hesitate to recommend this album to anyone at all, it would be out of concern that it is just too different from Porcupine Tree, and some fans will potentially struggle with the material.
I’m no jazz critic, and truth be told it’s difficult for me to say too much about this album knowing so little about the genre. What I can say, however, is that Cheating the Polygraph will offer Porcupine Tree fans the same level of challenge and reward that can be reaped from repeated and attentive listens of Steven Wilson’s new solo albums. As Wilson continues to move forward with his solo project, a Porcupine Tree reunion seems to grow more distant by the day. But, at the very least, Cheating the Polygraph is a statement that Wilson wasn’t the only musical genius in the band.
Joe’s Grade: A