Steven Wilson - To the Bone

Steven Wilson To the Bone cover
Steven Wilson
To the Bone
Caroline International
Well, while I do like Porcupine Tree, almost as much as the next man does, this “deification” of Steven Wilson and perception that he has the Midas touch and as such, everything he does or produces is amazing, doesn’t quite sit well with me. I mean some of his solo works and projects are great, there’s no denying that. After all, he’s a seasoned musician with countless albums to his credit and he employs some of the better musicians around in his albums, despite losing the bulk of the band that performed with him on the past couple of albums being a bit of a bummer. There’s no issue with the performances per se here as they’re good, but mostly with a stylistic shift, a foray into poppier territory. Now, it’s not as if that atmospheric and bittersweet, ocassionally even sweet, but also at other times melancholic tendency didn’t exist in previous works, but it was never before laid as bare as it’s on this album. Or was it?
Well, Blackfield as well as select other moments from Wilson’s career have explored different territories than what most people would recognize as prog, but therein lies the catch… instead of trying to find the appropriate label for it – people should listen to the album.
The title track, “To the Bone”, is a melting pot of many different things: brit pop, funk, rock, power pop, you name it; it shifts through many different phases and sheds just as many skins…
“Nowhere Now” is in essence a pop number, with a simple structure and even performances that don’t go through the roof technically, but a lot of small details and shifts that are quite rewarding to the listener that will carefully listen to the track.
“Pariah” is a little weird, as it’s quit odd; the lyrics, ironic, the music a tad morose and melancholic with each verse really coming alive differently… it really felt to me quite like the poppiest moments of “Ayreon”, if you’d take that comparison as valid but done in a slightly post way.
“The Same Asylum As Before” is zannier, more Beatlesque, with Wilson singing at the top of his lungs, over modulating slide guitars; it has a weird spaced out and quite noisy mid-section that might upset you, but is otherwise perfectly palatable.
“Refuge” is an atmospheric number that sounds to my ears like a tripped out Peter Gabriel piece of sorts.
“Permanating” has a disco feel about it a little Pulp and little Muse, I dunno what. It’s damn catchy though; if only the chorus was as good as the verses and Steven a great and not just adequate singer, thought…
“Blank Tapes” is a subdued piece half sung by Wilson, half by Ninet Tayeb that’s done work for him before… nice, if nothing else.
“People Who Eat Darkness” is a bit more garage like in feel, but progressively that’s drowned out. I suppose it’s the relative disappointment.
“Song of I” is more trip-hoppy, ambient and a duet between Wilson and Sophie Hunger with sampled bits going on in the background, for the most part, more than an atmosphere, than a song proper.
“Detonation” initially (for a couple of minutes) has these annoying beats that sound like something that Radiohead would do, with the sort of jaundiced, lazy vocal that made Gilmour famous, only not as perfect. It does actually get rockier in its third minute and sort of repeats a certain few motifs throughout the duration, while fusing over a pretty bright sounding melody either jazzing or rocking away with some wild soloing.
“Song of Unborn” is a serene number, which begins very timidly but sees the instruments getting louder and louder, until they almost drown Wilson out in a crescendo that feels purifying and almost sacrosanct.
Well, fans of Wilson might get pissed that this is not a “Raven That Refused to Sing Pt2” and they will, no doubt, find this album lacking when measured against their prog stick, if they come from that train of thought. Some “fanboys” will just love it, because Wilson is “god” and he can’t do no wrong in their eyes… (well his neither my favorite Steven or Wilson in prog; Hackett and Damien would suffice, but he’s no slouch, let’s be honest) and the rest. Well, I will try to be the folk on the street and use some common sense; it’s not as poppy as a poppy record should be and not as prog, as a hardcore prog record could be, so it exists somewhere in a threshold between these two worlds, an area where the Kate Bushe’s and Peter Gabriel’s and certainly a lot of the H’ era Marillion do exist… but it can’t really challenge most of them directly for a variety of reasons, the foremost being Wilson’s vocals. Still it’s an album well worth of investigating and enjoying and I can certainly attest that it grows with every consecutive listen.