Porcupine Tree emerged out of the darkness with significant motion to combine the noise on the street with a pure psychedelic plastic blues. The group had evolved from a solo project for Steven Wilson to a full fledged band creating a progressive rock ambient trance fusion over the course of several albums (On the Sunday of Life... in 1992, Up the Downstair in 1993, and The Sky Moves Sideways in 1995), bringing in Colin Edwin, Chris Maitland, and Richard Barbieri to assist with live performances. They began to develop more song oriented structures with full fledged band albums (Signify in 1996 and Stupid Dream in 1999) before going into the studio to record 'Lightbulb Sun'. The sessions at Foel Studio/No Man's Land featured Steven Wilson on vocals, guitars, piano, mellotron, hammered dulcimer, samples, banjo, harp, and production; Richard Barbieri on synthesizers, hammond organ, fender rhodes, clavinet, and mellotron; Colin Edwin on bass, drum machine, and guimbri; and Chris Maitland on drums and backing vocals; with Stuart Gordon on violin and viola; Nick Parry on cello; Eli Hibit on backup rhythm guitar; and The Minerva String Quartet (Katy Latham and Lisa Betteridge on violin, Sarah Heines on viola, and Emmeline Brewer on cello). The String sections were arranged and produced by XTC's Dave Gregory at Christchurch Studios in Clifton, Bristol with John Waterhouse. 'Lightbulb Sun' became their first album to chart, going to number one hundred and sixty one on the UK album chart.
Wilson reveals in the liner notes: The quickest album we ever made (in 3 months flat and within only a few months of the release of the previous one) and we all feel our best work to date. Although superficially it seems to be a continuation of "Stupid Dream" it is a much more intense work - possibly less immediate, but ultimately more rewarding. Lyrically I arrived at a point where I was no longer interested in writing about abstract concepts like war, religion, space...etc... These are very personal and emotionally raw songs. It took me a long time to have the confidence and experience to be able to write them and some of them are dripping with negative emotions (Hatesong and Feel So Low particularly). Feel So Low pleased me a lot as I resisted the temptation to refine the original stream of consciousness words and left the nerve ends dangling. Musically we wanted to bring back some of the experimental aspects that had been to some degree lost on "Stupid Dream". Richard and I worked on creating some unique keyboard sounds for the album...There was also an influence from industrial and metal music coming through...On the other hand there is a whole set of songs where the pastoral sound of long-gone English summers exerts it's influence on me (not for the first time). In a song like "Winding Shot" there are shades of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Nick Drake, although the end result is hopefully pure Porcupine Tree. This effect is accentuated by the fact that many of the instruments and vocals on the album are much more up front and given less of a sheen than on "Stupid Dream" (where the "stadium" production is I think the weakest aspect). Organic is the word I like to use. As we had on "Stupid Dream" we expanded our musical colours to include things like banjo, hammered dulcimer, the string arrangements of Dave Gregory and several African and Morrocan instruments that Colin brought back from his travels."
Barbieri adds: "Although it appears to be a continuation of sorts from "Stupid Dream" there are quite obvious differences as well. Certainly on the production side there is a more intense and upfront sound apparent. Also parts of the arrangements are stripped down to the bare essentials. Steven's lyrics became more personal and less ambiguous and so the arrangements by definition became more stripped down and more direct. Much of my keyboard experimenting took place on tracks like "Russia On Ice", "Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth...", "Feel so Low" and "4 Chords That Made a Million"", while other tracks didn't seem to need a great deal of keyboards. I'm not one for playing all over a track if I can't see a genuine need for it. For me this album has an honesty and emotion that places it above all the other Porcupine Tree albums, although I would also say that not every track is as strong as some individual tracks on past albums."
All tracks by Wilson except "Hatesong" (Edwin, Wilson) and "Russia on Ice" (Barbieri, Edwin, Maitland, Wilson). Arrangements by Porcupine Tree.
1. "Lightbulb Sun" 5:33
2. "How Is Your Life Today?" 2:48
3. "Four Chords That Made a Million" 3:38
4. "Shesmovedon" 5:15
5. "Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled" 4:50
6. "The Rest Will Flow" 3:36
7. "Hatesong" 8:28
8. "Where We Would Be" 4:14
9. "Russia on Ice" 13:05
10. "Feel So Low" 5:16