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Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase. CD (album) cover


Steven Wilson


Crossover Prog

4.30 | 1590 ratings

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5 stars Hand. Cannot. Erase.

A brilliant album title, is it not? Genesis once tilted an album with similar lackluster words called We Can't Dance. But Genesis were never the geniuses that Steven Wilson is. They would never had the creative intelligence to concoct a title that's punctuated with periods rendering the title as We. Can't. Dance. See the genius in that? If not, I'll expand on it further in my review.

This album starts off with the now familiar atmospheric background sounds that open a Brave era Marillion album, or any era Pink Floyd album, before we get into the music proper. Gentle and benign acoustic guitar strumming soon gives way to a galloping fast rhythm section that sounds like a combination of a Yes/Rush hybrid depending on what rhythm instrument you're focusing on. Swilson displays Squire-like bass tones and riffs while Minneman does his best Peart homage by hitting every ride and crash cymbal between the beats to ensure that no dead air is present in this frantic sound mix. A sludgy guitar solo is reminiscent of one of Lifeson's solos and the effect is complete.

This song titled 3 Years Older devolves into more acoustic strum and emotive less piano break before morphing into an ELP 'homage" with a ripping Hammond organ that is not quite sure if it wants to be a caustic Keith Emerson statement or an over the top comic embellishment from TAAB era John Evan. Wilson's bass displays less treble in this musical climax so I suppose he's honoring Greg Lake now. A slight musician that has always been underrated, so Swilson is finally giving this poor underappreciated chap his do. Bravo. Bravo.

The third track of this masterpiece starts with groundbreaking atmospheric percussive programming that renders the primitive Linn Drum Machine, so cherished by Collins era Genesis, totally obsolete. The LDM only vaguely touched on the soulless bleeps and dashes that Wilson's electronics take to a higher artificial level. Is there no stopping this man's quest to expand the boundaries of progressive rock music?

But wait, Wilson is not only the keeper of the prog music flame, he also shows himself to be a deft lyricist with the profound and thought provoking lyrics of the album's title track. In a melody that would have taken the Collin's era Genesis all of five minutes to arrive out, Wilson shoehorns his brilliant lyrics into a jerky chorus with the profound words "Hand cannot erase love." Again, he's brilliant. Wilson did not say adversity or trials during wartime cannot erase love, or that time and distance cannot erase love, or even that common human failings cannot erase love. He said, quite plainly, that a hand cannot erase love. What a sumptuous treat for every budding lyricist that that genuflected over every lyric put down on vinyl by Ian Anderson, Peter Hamill, Roy Harper and Peter Gabriel, let alone stalwarts like Dylan and Lennon. They've simply been wasting their time. The silly buggers.

Track number four starts off with more stunning electronic pulses and digital dashes before an honored female guest vocalist speaks her part. Wilson could have had her sing this narrative with vocals that contain spine tingling high octives, soulful timber with an incredible pitch perfect delivery. But Wilson just let's her simply talk. Again, the genius of this move almost humbles me.

When Wilson does actually sing himself on this number, his guest vocalist backs him with harmonies so shrill that's its actually an attempt to give Wison's thin vocals some heft and body. It's an old trick that failed as badly for those that tried it some 40 plus years ago. Even Phil Spector called it stupid.

And here's where my ride on the Swilson propaganda train comes to an end. I tried to stick around for a few more lackluster songs before my attention wandered into more important concerns like putting out the evening trash. So, I got about this far at my first listening to his album some months ago, and I really doubt that three times will make it a charm.

Wilson is not a plagiarist. There's never a single note, chord or guitar riff that I think that he's lifted from another artist. But he is an imitator of other artist's styles. After his morbid fascination with old era KC on the Raven, I was hoping that Wilson would finally arrive at a style all his own. It's not impossible. Nearly everyother modern prog artist evolves past the imitation stage at some point, but not Mr. Wilson, he continues to dig up the corpses of old prog for more Frankenstein's monster reanimations. I have two things that I'm racing against: failing eyesight and a failing heart. So there's a good chance that I will expire while listening to music in my study. One reviewer opined that this music should be allowed to wash over the listener. I disagree, as it will be a cold day in hell before I let this stagnantly polluted bathwater wash over me, as it may be the last thing I listen to on this earth.

So 5 stars for Swilson's great swindle. A con man of this caliber should be greatly celebrated for pulling the wool over so many eyes, or ears in this case, and celebrate him I will.

As B.T. Barnum once said, there's one born every minute. And Mr. Wilson, no doubt, heard him loud and clearly. So did I and I'm heading in the other direction, just as quick as my sound mind and ailing body will allow me.

SteveG | 5/5 |


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