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Let's talk 'To the bone' by Steven Wilson

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AlejandroR View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlejandroR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Let's talk 'To the bone' by Steven Wilson
    Posted: August 21 2017 at 17:36
Recently there’s been a lot of talk about Steven Wilson’s new album and it has finally come out. This album is, without a doubt, different than anything he has done before- resulting in a lot of controversy- possibly Wilson’s marketing strategy? For some, the record includes such pop moments that it defies the very definition of progressive rock. But isn’t combining rock with other styles and creating fresh sounds the very essence of the musical genre?

The album speaks of politics, war, obession and joy. It’s a dance between Wilson’s most sinister and happiest sides, creating an album that will leave us something to talk about for a long time. 

How does he do it? How does Steven Wilson compose his music? I will try to give you a taste of what makes up one of his new songs. Before the album came out, a lyric video was made available on the artist’s official Youtube page. It personifies a refugee, and includes synthesizers, intimate lyrics, and guitar, synth and harmonica solos, yes that’s right- a harmonica solo. 

Let’s analyze the chord progressions that make up the song “Refuge”:

Here in the wreckage

The winter is hard

I sleep in the same clothes

That I dragged through the mud

The first verse throws us into the story of the refugee; things are going badly, he’s cold and has very little. Wilson barely gives any movement to the verses, possibly in an attempt to express the infinite wait of the refugee’s long and uncertain situation. The first verse uses only a piano – playing the same chord 4 times until we arrive at the first chorus.

The only chord used in the verses is C5 (C major without the third, as though he is intentionally removing colour from the chord).

This colourless feel gives us a taste of the chorus that makes the song.

And if you ask me

Nothing’s changed

There’s nowhere else I can go

So I stay

The chords that form the chorus are Em7, Bm, Em7, Gmaj7.

Again, these chords are very stable. Even though in this progression there is more movement than the single chord verses, it still has very little and sets the tone of the song (G major) staying in the tonic chords (I, IIIm y VIm).

This formula repeats itself twice completely, but before going into the third verse there is a quick and simple bridge with synthesizers and some hi-hat (drums) that signal a change in the refugee’s vision.   

There are two chords used in this bridge: Cmaj – Gmaj7; the classic IV – I.

For the third verse and chorus we have a bigger and more dramatic view of the refugee’s situation; there are synthesizers, a timid and opaque drum, and the chorus is sung in falsetto to introduce the second and most tragic part of the piece.

In order to unleash all the fury of a character stuck in such a terrible situation, the drums are finally more present and the chord progression becomes more interesting. Even though it is made up of only three chords, it lasts eight bars and is divided like this:

[ C5      |  C5     | C5     | D5     | E5    |  E5    | E5    | D5      ]  it is repeated during the harmonica, electric guitar and synth solos finishing in a silence. The silence is only interrupted by what seems to be the sound of children playing and singing.

 The outro is the combination of a bridge in which we hear the harmonica and the chorus one last time.

The last bridge is: Am, Bm, Am, Bm, Em, Cmaj, Em, C major and it is repeated once.

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TheNonArtist View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote TheNonArtist Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 21 2017 at 18:58
I loved the album. Excellent songwriting and production. Wasn't really a fan of Permanating, but that's only 1 track. 8/10 record for me.

Edited by TheNonArtist - August 21 2017 at 18:59
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mlkpad14 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 21 2017 at 20:40
Fan of the new album... not much to talk about though... kinda straightforward.
Good music isn't dead; it just isn't on radio.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Aussie-Byrd-Brother Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 22 2017 at 00:58
I don't feel it's really all that different from what he's done before at all. If anything, it's not too far removed from the `indie-rock' Porcupine Tree period of `Stupid Dream' and `Lightbulb Sun', but just even more straightforward. Where in PT a lot more instrumental soloing might have shown up, instead on `To The Bone' he usually fills those same blanks with different vocal passages.

That might actually be a fault of the album - too much singing, too much of the time. We know there wouldn't be a ton of more overtly `proggy' spots on it this time, but man, when they do show up, all of a sudden your ears prick up and the album comes alive again! Well, for a minute or two before more singing.

It's far from a bad album, and despite one or one tracks, it's not a `pop' album at all, even if it is `poppier' in parts. If anything it's really just a fancy indie-rock album.

But one strange thing about it....it's curiously unemotional and even Wilson himself sounds a little unengaged in parts. It has similar parts to his other solo albums that delivered quite effective emotional outpourings, but here he often sounds quite dreary and bland.

No `buyers regret' or anything, but probably not one I'll personally return to too often once the `Steven Wilson has a new album out' interest winds down a little. Even the little stop-gap `4 1/2' EP sounded far more exciting.

Edited by Aussie-Byrd-Brother - August 22 2017 at 00:59
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lazland Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 22 2017 at 01:54
I agree with Michael. It is not altogether different from what preceded it. I have given it one listen, and like what I hear, with the strange exception of the longer track. However, as I say, only one listen in, what is clear is that it is far from being a mere "pop" album. There was a lot of media puff promoting this one, most of which can be safely ignored.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Aussie-Byrd-Brother Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 22 2017 at 02:29
Good point, Laz!

It's also strange that all those reference-points the press releases made of it being comparable to Peter Gabriel, Talk Talk, etc....and there's really not much like that at all on the album!

But (at least for me personally), I think there's a bigger issue with the album...while there's certainly reliable stuff on it that's hardly bad, there seems to be a real lack of truly killer pieces that make you want to keep returning to them.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlejandroR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 22 2017 at 14:35
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPJCbG2dfoA
I made a cover of the harmonica solo in 'Refuge'. What do you think??
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote richardh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 23 2017 at 01:41
Yep Steven hasn't gone ''pop'' just yet. Agree with much of what's been said although I've only listened once which is not going to give me a definitive opinion on it just yet.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote nfnnfn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 23 2017 at 09:32
It would have been very nice to have another genre in progarchives for PROGRESSIVE POP.
I heard Steven himself likes to consider his new album as prog pop too.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 23 2017 at 10:02
Originally posted by nfnnfn nfnnfn wrote:

It would have been very nice to have another genre in progarchives for PROGRESSIVE POP.
I heard Steven himself likes to consider his new album as prog pop too.
Progressive pop is indeed a genre (circa '66-'67 Sounds Sounds, Revolver, etc.) but is not a sub genre of rock and will not be listed in PA. And God knows, I've tried. Wink

Edited by SteveG - August 23 2017 at 10:03
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote M27Barney Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 23 2017 at 11:48
My youngest son purchased the CD - The packaging is very professional I must say - I will give it a spin why not? The son said that only "Refuge" was any good on playing it today. We shall see. I think that I will probably listen to my new Par Lindh CD "Time Mirror" first though......expensive purchase at 20euros.....But towards a good cause I think.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ColonelClaypool Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 25 2017 at 03:49
I've listened to the whole thing 5-6 times now, and to me there's three very good tracks on the album, To The Bone, The Same Asylum As Before and Detonation. Additionally, Refuge is pretty decent. The rest of the songs, apart from Permanating, all feel very samey and a little bland, I can't say they've made much of an impression on me at all.

People Who Eat Darkness would fit right in on In Absentia, which is one of my least favourite PT albums (behind Deadwing and The Incident).

Permanating, on the other hand, is something else entirely, I still haven't figured out if I love it or hate it. It's definitely very catchy though.




Edited by ColonelClaypool - August 25 2017 at 03:54
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote omphaloskepsis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 28 2017 at 09:37
I haven't received my preorder deluxe version yet.  I'm old fashion to the point, I refuse to listen to any singles or YouTube until after I hear the entire album.   I suppose I'll probably like To the Bone since that's my SW-Porcupine Tree history.

I wouldn't be worried about Steven selling out.  Next time Wilson will strike out in a different direction.     


Edited by omphaloskepsis - August 28 2017 at 09:39
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 28 2017 at 09:54
Originally posted by ColonelClaypool ColonelClaypool wrote:

I've listened to the whole thing 5-6 times now, and to me there's three very good tracks on the album, To The Bone, The Same Asylum As Before and Detonation. Additionally, Refuge is pretty decent. The rest of the songs, apart from Permanating, all feel very samey and a little bland, I can't say they've made much of an impression on me at all.

Wilson does exude the feeling of being samey in his work, no matter the album. Perhaps his British reserve is showing. Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote aapatsos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 28 2017 at 10:36
To my ears, it is an average-to-decent crossover prog album with its many ups and downs. Uneven would be the best word to describe it. Compositions are well executed but not so convincing.

I find it rather "flat" at times, quite exciting in others, notably in the longest, more elaborate tracks. I am sure it will sell many more copies compared to his previous ones; the main reason is the promotion and the fact that it is quite more accessible than anything he has done.

It's got the "I am the new Peter Gabriel" tag written all over it and that is not necessarily a bad thing as it may draw more interest to the prog rock scene.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SteveG Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 28 2017 at 11:36
^I thought that Midge Ure was supposed to be the new Peter Gabriel with Breathe. Or was it Sting? I forget.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote aapatsos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 28 2017 at 12:21
Both too old for this era Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 28 2017 at 12:36
Had a listen together with an old friend of mine as we both almost simultaneously got into Swilson. I kinda dig the poppish direction but I don't quite get the folks claiming this to be a whole new sound and style. Like others I hear Stupid Dream 2.0 coming out the speakers, which isn't a bad thing at all...it just doesn't qualify as something wholly new inside Steven's oevre which, again, is alright to these ears as long as the quality is there. I am still waiting on my copy to arrive and music always has the power to change your perception of it once you really start digging into it. 
The emo Blue Man Group cover I could do without thoughLOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote M27Barney Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 29 2017 at 05:31
The last track is best on spin one. No track that stands out and you think that it may be worth a second spin. It's commercial , but is it pop - i'm not a good judge as I don't listen to much music on the radio as I listen to talk-sport. It's a long way from the raven - that's for sure, and I then listened to the Par Lindh and that was definitely symphonic prog. S. Wilson made the sun-newspaper being compared with  Ed Sheeran - Again - not sure I have heard anything by such a commercially successful  "superstar" - well not by choice anyway. Looks like Mr Wilson may make a bob-or-two from his new release - good luck to him.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Blacksword Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 29 2017 at 05:58
I was surprised to see Wilson on BBC Breakfast last week talking about the album and having to explain to the BBC mooks what prog rock was. He's been described - although I don't know by who, perhaps the BBC - as the king of prog rock.

A dubious title.

What I've heard of this album it sounds ok, fairly accessable. Not prog rock IMO, but by no means actual pop.

Edited by Blacksword - August 30 2017 at 03:01
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