Steven Wilsons fifth studio solo album.
As a big fan of Steven Wilson, either solo or with the numerous bands he’s been in in particular the Porcupine Tree, I was excited to hear that he had released a new album. ‘To the Bone’ is his fifth studio album, such is his prolificacy. His last two albums have been masterpieces in mood and prog music. Indeed, Steven Wilson is often called the ‘Prog Father’ for his work. ‘Fear of a Dead Planet by Porcupine Tree stands as one of my all-time favourite albums.
So, imagine my discomfort when I heard that his latest album was wandering into the pop arena. Diehard fans on the internet were openly slagging off the album stating that he’d sold out. Yet the sales soared. The album made it into the top 10 of that week, at one point it was even at the top. Prog albums don’t do this. His face was on every chat show, his work reviewed by those that normally wouldn’t touch the genre with a ten-foot barge pole.
It was with reluctance I listened to it, just once. Then I went into the earlier work and other albums before taking another listen. This time I did what I was once told and not to pigeon hole music. His earlier work when listened to reveal a pop ‘bend’ to it at times. New albums, the best albums, sometimes take ages to appreciate.
The album starts well though.
The title track ‘To the Bone’ is a typical Steven Wilson track which wouldn’t have been out of place on his earlier albums. Lovely musicianship and moody throughout with a little pop twist into it. It hints at times of flower power, The Temples even.
This is much more in the older territory, but yet enhanced with some lovely vocalisation that added with a great guitar bridge. At four minutes long, he manages to squeeze in a lot in such a short space of time.
This tracks again features the amazing vocals of Ninet Pariah, whose contributions to ‘Routine’ almost brought me to tears the first time I heard it. Steven manages to pull at your emotions at times with his music and lyrics in a way no one else has. This song is a wonderful five minutes of music, another that verges on pop at times, but Ninet’s voice adds to the mix wonderfully.
The Same Asylum As Before.
Steven’s falcetta style voice at the beginning of this track raises it to a different level. The lyrical hooks, make this a song you might even dance to, though no self-respecting proghead would ever confess to dancing 😉 Another song with strong pop influences yet with a musical ending that totally transforms the song. One I’d be happy to sing along to driving through the country on a summers day.
To me the standout track, but I know it’s a marmite track. Very reminiscent to ‘Routine’ and ‘Drive Home’, an emotional track. This time on the subject of refugees, it drives along nicely and the middle haunting melody is exquisite. Very Steven Wilson, very prog.
A pure pop track that is actually a delight. Very summery and at three minutes is a perfect single. This is probably the track that had most Wilson fans chomping at the bit.
Ninet Tayeb is back for this track, the shortest of the album. Some lovely acoustic guitar, quiet reflection. So much pushed into just 120 seconds. Oh I wish it could be longer. It deserves to be expanded.
People Who Eat Darkness
This is a brilliant rocking track that could be on a Porcupine Tree album, very rocking with a voice to match. This is the Steven Wilson I know of old.
Song of I
This track features the vocal talents of Sophie Hunger. A disco orientated track that evokes eighties synth pop. A drum machine in the background and the soulful voice of Sophie have a hypnotising effect. Different, and yet alluring at the same time. Another one that could be expanded.
At over nine minutes by far the longest track on the album. A veritable mix of psychedelia, eighties pop and rock. Some regard it as the best track, very old Steven Wilson. The way it changes mood and style is excellent. It builds soundscapes in your mind and haunts you in your sleep from its pure beauty.
Song of Unborn
An end to the album that is worthy of any that have gone before. By now Stevens nasal voice style is permeated in every crevasse of your brain. Foetal heart beats provide the percussion at times as the song swoops like a bird from majestic heights to quiet reflective spells. A marvel and an amazing end that leaves you craving more, ready to press play again.
So in conclusion, an album that defies superlatives at times. Sure it’s different from his previous recordings but not enough to put me off, It’s actually quite nice at times to be hit with a pop song halfway through. So Steven, I apologise for taking so long to revisit this album, but thanks for producing such another masterpiece. Now where is the repeat button …
5 thumbs… way high