Steven Wilson creates his most colorful and triumphant record yet.
Steven Wilson, for all the music made and producing done, has achieved the status of "the most successful British artist you've never heard of." This cheeky label stems from how Wilson's complex, melancholic brand of progressive rock earns him praise from critics and loyal fans, but not a household name. Still, his recent music has been his most popular to date. With this gradual growth in popularity, To the Bone comes to glorious fruition as a surprisingly optimistic and accessible record.
Restlessness has been a defining characteristic of Steven Wilson's musical career. One need only consider his many projects as evidence: No-Man with Tim Bowness, Blackfield with Aviv Geffen, Porcupine Tree, Bass Communion, and I.E.M., and his four earlier prog/pop solo projects, Raven That Refused to Sing, Hand. Cannot. Erase, Grace for Drowning, and Insurgentes.
Steven Wilson, the wunderkind of modern prog, can make your head spin with his creativity and output as producer, songwriter, bandleader and musical collaborator. Since breaking hearts of Porcupine Tree fans everywhere by going solo in 2008, Wilson has confounded expectations with, by turn, tales of gothic horror and concept records about alienation and the numbing inevitability of modern life. That the latter, 2015's Hand.
It's common to see songwriters start out making simple, traditional, pop-oriented songs, and then over the course of a career evolve to create more complex, refined, and writerly work. It's rare, however, to see that same process in reverse. Steven Wilson, former frontman of Porcupine Tree and the figurehead of modern prog, is doing just that with his new album To the Bone.
Up until now, Steven Wilson has written a single song that can be reasonably called “happy” in his nearly 30 years as a professional musician. Wilson’s lyrics abide his oft-repeated mantra that “the saddest music is the most beautiful”. For him, truly meaningful and uplifting beauty comes in channeling difficult emotion into song.
Whatever your take on prog rock, one can scarcely deny that the genre has produced some of the great musicians of all time. More debate could be had over how many genuinely great songwriters prog has produced. Waters? Gabriel? Anderson? Fish? One name that does deserve a place on the list, however truncated one might make it, is Steven Wilson, the ex-Porcupine Tree frontman now unveiling his fifth solo album, To the Bone, which is also his first on a major label (the Caroline subsidiary of Universal).