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Steven Wilson - 4 ½ CD (album) cover

4 ½

Steven Wilson

 

Crossover Prog

3.51 | 450 ratings

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LakeGlade12
3 stars 3.2 Stars. A decent B-sides album

4 1/2 is listed in most places as Wilson's fifth solo album, although really that is not the case. This album is basically an EP compilation of various songs that did not get used on major albums + an alternative version of a old Porcupine Tree favorite "Don't Hate Me". While SW insists that these songs were not included on any album only due to them not fitting with the their themes, I can also spot a clear drop in inspiration and originality in these songs. As with most decent B-sides you will find a few good songs and the rest ranging from average to poor.

The album opens with the 9 min song "My Book of Regrets" (recorded during the Hand. Cannot. Erase sessions) which is meant to grab your attention immediately and start this album off on a good note. During this song you will find all the trademark features present on most modern PT/SW album's; Catchy Alt-rock/pop, lengthy instrumentals and mood changes and some pleasant harmonies all nicely wrapped up together. Or in other words it's straight from the modern Prog-Rock handbook and played to Wilson's strengths. Still it's a good song and opener to the album though.

"Year of the Plague" is the only song to come from The Raven sessions and it clearly shows. It's worth saying that The Raven ranks among my top 3 all time favourite albums so I was very curious to listen to this B-side. The song is a delicate and very beautiful instrumental which stands up to repeated listenings. Had it been included on The Raven it would certainly not been a highlight, but it would have not lowered the quality of the album, which is extremely high praise from me. Definitely my favourite from this album and the only one with lasting appeal.

"Happiness 3" is actually a very old song which was written during the Deadwing era but recorded during the H.C.E sessions. It's a standard upbeat pop/rock song which Wilson is very talented at writing. The song is definitely catchy, but does not have the depth that the pop songs on H.C.E/In Absentia have. Still not bad though.

"Sunday Rain Sets In" was also written during the H.C.E era but sounds like it came from the Grace for Drowning sessions. It's a slow and atmospheric piece that would have fit onto GFD, but it far less inspired. There is also a burst of energy towards the end of the song which is awfully done and ruins the atmosphere that had been created. A poor track all-round really.

"Vermillioncore" is yet again a H.C.E era track, but this one could have fitted into the metal phase of PT, especially the nil-recurring EP. The instrumental begins is groovy bass work which bursts into intense metal and sonic distortion later on. It's a pretty cool track and it's been awhile since he has written a song like this, but it does not do anything that has not been already done by that era of PT.

Lastly we have the alternative version of "Don't Hate Me" with Wilson on the verses and Ninet on the chorus, which when you think about it makes no sense at all to the lyrics of the song. It should be reversed so that it's the male that sings "don't hate me, I'm not special like you" as he justifies his stalking. Instrumentally the first half of the song is identical to the original, its only the instrumental in the middle that has been changed. Here there is more of a jazzy emphasis and the degree of psychedelia has been significantly increased as well (no flutes though sadly). Overall it's a OK alternative version that could have been much better with some proper thought into the arrangements.

To sum up 4 1/2 is a B-side album, nothing more, nothing less. If you treat it as a full album then you are only setting yourself up for major disappointment. As B-side albums go it's a fairly standard affair of some good and bad songs but mostly average. 3 stars is the perfect rating here. Not a bad album, but certainly not a Recordings 2.0!

LakeGlade12 | 3/5 |

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