Artist: Steven Wilson
Title: To The Bone
Genre: Rock / Pop
Release Date: 18th August 2017
Label: Caroline International
The first thing that immediately distinguishes ‘To The Bone’ from any of his previous efforts is not the fact that Wilson’s new album has come out on a major label. This was bound to happen sooner or later and it will certainly help extending his audience further than his previous label might have been able to. The main difference, to get back to what I was trying to say earlier, is that he’s putting himself on the front cover for the first time ever. No cryptic imagery, no hiding his face behind a mask or anything. The way he does it is a direct reflection of the album’s title and also a testament to the album’s trajectory. Wilson’s always had affections to pop music and throughout the past years and albums, it has become abundantly clear to me that one day those elements would take a centre stage on one of his albums, and ‘To The Bone’ is just that album. Having said that, you shouldn’t expect this to be just the usual pop record you can find in abundance in various store shelves across the globe.
All cards on the table, I was a little sceptic myself about the album’s direction before my first listen and afterwards, the feeling didn’t subside at all. The one track that stuck with me was ‘Pariah’ which I had listened to a gazillion times over the weeks prior to the album release. I still think this is one of the stand-out tracks on it with the female part of Ninet Tayeb providing just hope that it will all be all right eventually and opposing the pessimistic attitude of the male part who struggles to get up in the morning at all over the feeling that it’s all pointless to begin with. All embedded into a beautiful musical framework of melodies and an explosion right in the middle this one got me surprisingly fast. Over the following days, I kept listening to the frequently and eventually it clicked. Yeah, it is much more song-oriented and leaning towards pop music a lot more, but all the negative connotations towards that kind of music you might have it all circumvents in a really lovely way, balancing out the ambitious with the straight-forward, thus creating a hybrid that once was the regular thing in this genre.
Suddenly, I found myself tapping along to the infectious groove the opening title track develops while the lyrics elaborate whether or not truth is the universal thing as it is perceived by many or rather a matter of everyone’s singular perspective on things. ‘Refuge’ is literally a personal comment on the on all that is happening concerning the refugee crisis, just with the twist of being told from a refugee’s perspective instead of a detached as viewed from the ivory tower while musically it starts with almost nothing it goes on to explode with a rich palette of colours and a fabulous solo section just before it vanishes in silence. The next one you either love or hate I suppose. Most comments I read about it were rather negative towards it being flat-out pop music. All I say is: So what? Yeah, the falsetto on it takes a gargantuan amount of getting used to, though the song itself is just pure bliss and it is the happiest track I’ve ever heard on a STEVEN WILSON record and for reason that doesn’t even bother me in the slightest.
‘Blank Tapes’ counterpoints this by boiling things down to the absolute minimum requirements necessary to make an intriguing song and it is once again Ninet who shares vocal duties with Steven making this little gem about a future that has never come to pass as gripping as it is. The tapes may have never been filled and as unfortunate as this is it should tell us not to mourn the things that could have been and instead build something that is real. “I live in the flat next door and I can hear you fuck your girlfriend through the walls / But the only thing we share is the slightest nod as we’re passing on the stairs” I suppose quite a few people can relate to those words that make up the beginning of ‘People Who Eat Darkness’. While that usually isn’t a problem in itself because utmost superficial relationships with neighbours have become a common thin in this day and age, the twist here is a different one. Because in more and more cases the person next door happens to be a killer, a psychopath and the like. Once this has gone public, the only thing we can say is “Well, he seemed like such a nice guy on the stairs smiling back at me and all”.
As sad as it is to admit that but how well can you really know another person, or is it just that they let you know what they think is best for you and hide the rest. Something you might wanna think about. ‘Song Of Unborn’ on the other hand, closes the album on a hopeful note. It is literally someone talking to an unborn child, wondering if it is really the best idea to have it born into this messed-up and cruel world. Something all parents ask themselves I think. The song comes to a most uplifting conclusion and implies it’s always worth it because you never know what could change for the better in this world and what it might achieve once it has grown up. On the musical side of things, we have a ballad like only Wilson can do it, at least that’s how I feel. It is so densely packed with emotion it can almost tear you apart with acoustic guitar choir and vocals all playing their part.
Well, ‘To The Bone’ certainly has a different approach to it with it almost completely disregarding the prog elements that once stood out so much in the music. While others surely will see that as a negative point it is most definitely nor. Wilson also was never the type of artist who would let his audience dictate the kind of music he makes and as long as the end result is something equally engaging like ‘To The Bone’, I wouldn’t even mind him doing Country music one day.
01. To The Bone
02. Nowhere Now
04. The Same Asylum As Before
07. Blank Tapes
08. People Who Eat Darkness
09. Song Of I
11. Song Of Unborn
Steven Wilson and various guest musicians
http://stevenwilsonhq.com / https://www.facebook.com/StevenWilsonHQ
Total: 9.5 / 10