Steven Wilson — To the Bone
(Caroline 2557593020, 2017, CD)
by Paul Hightower, Published 2017-09-25
British musician Steven Wilson’s stated desire with this album was to pay homage to the intelligent and artful pop music of the 80s (Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, XTC, etc.). Those influences can be heard throughout To the Bone, including the forceful vocal lines on the title track, the deeply fraught emotions of “Refuge,” and the avant-funk of “Song of I.” He even celebrates the hook-laden tunesmithery of groups like Abba on “Permanating,” easily the most radio-friendly thing Wilson has ever crafted. Is this a deliberate gambit for wider commercial recognition? He’s acknowledged feeling frustration that he’s approaching 50 years old and the public doesn’t know who he is, so it’s hard not to regard this collection without a bit of cynicism — can’t wait for the “Detonation” dance remix! Not that it matters, since I doubt this album will turn Steven Wilson into an overnight sensation. While home to some great moments, too many songs feel like cast offs from past endeavors. The strongest song – “People Who Eat Darkness” – has more to do with bands like Radiohead than Talk Talk or Tears for Fears. Vocal contributions from Ninet Tayeb and Sophie Hunger help offset Wilson’s own limited chops (for a superior example of his abilities in that department see Blackfield V), and Mark Feltham’s fiery harmonica elevates several tracks. But at the end of the day this is a Steven Wilson record, one that is sure to divide his fans and disappoint the uninitiated hoping to find “Permanating Pt. 2” on albums like Insurgentes.
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