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Steven Wilson - To The Bone CD (album) cover

TO THE BONE

Steven Wilson

 

Crossover Prog

3.58 | 407 ratings

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LakeGlade12
2 stars 2.4 Stars. Nothing new under the sun

I think the saying "all good things must come to an end" is the perfect summery to how I feel about Steven Wilson's new album To The Bone (TTB). After a hat trick of masterful albums Wilson seems to running dry on new ideas for this album. While there are a few surprises and good ideas to be found here, most of the songs can be pigeonholed into specific previous albums of phases of his career.

The main focus of TTB is on the progressive-pop genre, with the song writing trying to strike the fine balance between pop accessibility and Prog's more unpredictable nature. Steven has released several great Prog-pop albums throughout his career, with Porcupine Tree's Stupid Dream being the highlight. When comparing the two albums it becomes very clear how lacking TTb is in terms of not only creative Prog, but also the strength of the pop hooks that are meant to repeatedly play in your head.

The album starts with the title track, which is one of the few original sounding songs on the album. A great balance is struck between the powerful instrumentals and infectious chorus, and no loss of energy occurs between these sections. Nowhere Now is unfortunately a large drop in quality, sounding like a mid-tempo Blackfield track but without the lyrical or creative magic of that duo. A generic AOR rock song that I would expect from a past-their-best artist.

Pariah begins as a generic 80s powder balled between Steven Wilson and Ninet Tayeb. As someone who grew up listening to this kind of music it really is a sub-par tick boxing pop-ballet, which is a big shame as I know Wilson can write fantastic pop songs. The second half of the song is more interesting with a instrumental noise assault, but it is not enough to save the song.

The Same Asylum As Before is best described as more uneven version of Prodigal (from In Absentia), but with some VERY bad vocals in places. Wilson has tried singing in a much higher pitch than normal in parts of the album, and it's something I (and many other people I have spoken to) are not a fan of.

Refuge is one of the better songs on TTB. A slow building and very emotive piece that focuses on the difficulties of people living in refuge. There is an extended instrumental at the end which reminds of a more focused Regret #9 (from Hand Cannot Erase) followed by a gentle ambience. This is more in line with the kind of music you would expect from PT or his solo albums.

Permanating on the other hand will catch most SW fans by complete surprise! A bouncy, happy and full-blown pop piece which stands in complete contrast to the majority of this back catalogue. You have to go all the way back to On The Sunday Of Life to find something this bright and sunny. Nevertheless it's not a bad pop song, and is the most original statement made on the album.

Blank Tapes takes the album back into gloom. Another slow and simple duet with Ninet, which leaves little impression. People Who Eat Darkness is the hard rocker of the album, which takes no prisoners both instrumentally and lyrically. Along with Detonation this song rips into the mentality of suicide bombers, which a bold approach. While this song does not offer a lot of Prog it is still a good song.

Song of I is another duet, this time with Sophie Hunger. This one sounds like it was ripped from Insurgentes and given a glossy finish. The beginning of the song sounds cool and promising, but it is not given the freedom to develop naturally and stagnates by the time it end. Wasted potential.

As already mentioned Detonation is the other song about suicide bombers, with lyrics that may be insulting to some but are not without merit. This is the only full-blown Prog track on the album, with large portions of it being dedicated to extended and fast-pased instrumentals. The final 3 minutes are worth mentioning, with Wilson taking a more electric-rock-prog approach which is fresh-sounding. Despite its 9 min running time, it actually feels underdeveloped in places and ends without warning. It needs an extra 3-4 minutes at least to be brought to its full potential, but it is still a good song.

Finally Song of Unborn ends with a more post-rock style layout. It begins quietly with ambience and piano, followed by the tasteful use of a choir. It eventually builds into a load and haunting instrumental, which finishes the album on a high note.

TTB is a tricky album to rate, as the quality varies wildly between 1 and 4 star songs. The reason why I am giving this 2 stars is simply due to it not being on the same level of any of his albums dating back to Lightbulb Sun (which I gave 3 stars). However that was at least was an important transitional album and had Wilson experiment with new ideas. TTB on the other hand has very little that is new to offer, and does not perform very well as a pop album. So sadly 2 stars is all I can give for this one.

LakeGlade12 | 2/5 |

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