Steven Wilson whether you love him or hate him, he is for me one of the artists I championed since re-discovering his work back with his time with Porcupine Tree in 2006 on Classic Rock Magazine and then as a solo artist in 2009 from the first issue of PROG Magazine. Not to mention his work with Aviv Geffen on Blackfield and with Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt on Storm Corrosion. And the 5.1 mixes with XTC, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Chicago, and Jethro Tull to name a few. With four studio albums in the can, he releases in what his known as a “pop” album entitled, To The Bone.
Now, mind you, this was not an easy album to review. After a few listens of To The Bone, I find this to be a very interesting release. There’s a mixture of inspirations that he mentioned including Tears For Fears' The Seeds of Love, Kate Bush's Hounds of Love, and Peter Gabriel’s So album. He’s not going to be a gigantic phenomenon, nor going to hit the mainstream, but it’s a diverse release so far he’s unleashed. But, he’s moving forward to challenge new ideas. Same thing with bands and artists including David Bowie, Prince, Genesis, and Pink Floyd.
Walt Disney once said about moving forwards is that “Around here we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” That’s is what Wilson is doing, he’s moving on, and seeing what new ideas he will come up next for the years to come.
The follow up to his previous work, Hand.Cannot.Erase is not just a crowning achievement, but again in my opinion another return from the master himself. Again Permanating which will one day become a live favorite, crosses the barriers between Talk Talk, ABBA’s Dancing Queen, and Electric Light Orchestra’s Discovery-era, has this catchy melody with the major and minor chords on the piano with some emotional chorus and rising beats.
The opening title-track and Nowhere Now both co-written by XTC’s Andy Partridge showcases some of the powerful lyrics he helped Steven with. The first track features a blaring Harmonica sound done by Mark Feltham as the lyrics deal with opening the door as the truth has finally come out of the rubble and it’s not a pleasant site. I love how it brings this nod to Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell track, Keep Talking as if it was continuing the form.
Nowhere Now deals with that once for the hope of peace below has suddenly gone. But up above in the afterlife and living in the clouds of Heaven of what happening down there and being free from the violence and danger, makes you wonder that you’re no longer part of the hard and difficult situation. Wilson channels the essence of Pete Townshend-sque guitar styles and lyrics that gives you a tug with sliding guitars and punching riffs.
It segues into the beautiful Pariah. This is the second collaboration that Steven has worked with Ninet Tayeb since 2015’s Hand.Cannot.Erase. Tayeb’s vocals will give you chills and kick you right in the gut on her arrangements of her singing. The duet between her and Steven, brings essence to both Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush’s Another Day and Don’t Give Up.
While the song deals with depression, giving up, and renewal, the blaring eruptive roar after Tinyeb sings “It will take time.” You can imagine yourself falling into space and knowing that your time has come before someone grabbing your arm and looking at your loved-one pulling you to the surface and knowing there is hope for a second chance.
The intense heavy riffs on The Same Asylum as Before gives the situation on a gigantic reality check and being back in the same hell you were in before, is come to you and karma has come. And it is letting the listener know, that once you’re in, you can’t get out after pulling the same crap you did over and over again by becoming the worst enemy you are now.
And the chance of getting out is zero. Steven is describing to the character by asking the questions of “Was it really worth it? Do you need another reality check to be in the same shit? Or are you proud of becoming your own worst nightmare?” Elsewhere, People Who Eat Darkness has this very Space-Rock guitar riff that is almost a nod to Hawkwind’s In Search of Space-era and essence of NEU’s Michael Rother.
The opening line “I live in the flat next door/And I can hear you fuck your girlfriend through the wall.” That is very intense and knowing the subject of terrorism and danger lurking behind those hallways is not going to be a pleasant by giving a 5 minute chance of escaping, but it is too late. Blank Tapes is an ominous haunting acoustic ballad featuring the Mellotron with another duet between Tayeb and Wilson.
You can close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through an empty house through the rubble and there’s nothing left. Detonation presents Wilson returning back to 2009 from his solo debut with Insurgentes. The first 2 minutes and 20 seconds becomes this eerie atmosphere before it changes into these darken yet hidden corridors. It is an intense mid-section rumble as you run towards the door after you feel the creeps behind you.
The moment you open the door, The character’s eyes are in disbelief and seeing now what is the Divided States of America and seeing the violence, betrayal, and unexpected view and blaming the three gods; Greater, Pale, and Whining. Now is To The Bone, Steven Wilson’s finest? No. But it shows the textures and craft he brings to the forefront with his fifth album.
Some will love this album, some won’t and want Steven to return to his Prog roots, which is understandable. Again, it's a diverse album. But for me, as I’ve mentioned in my introduction of this review, I had a very interesting yet growing experience with To The Bone.