Steven Wilson
The Raven That Refused to Sing


2.5
average

Review

by KerfuffleinaHussle USER (8 Reviews)
August 4th, 2013 | 63 replies | 2,698 views


Release Date: 02/25/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Steven Wilson takes a stab at nostalgia, but The Raven That Refused to Sing ends up sounding more like a cheap knock-off than a respectful homage

10 of 18 thought this review was well written

Steven Wilson is a bit of a dick, and you all know it.

Of course, it would be unfair to let one's personal opinion of a musician cloud their judgement of his music, and for many years I can comfortably state that I have not let my disliking of Wilson's attitude affect my opinion of his music. In fact, his discography has been a staple of my personal palette ever since I discovered him some time ago; unusually, it never really bugged me much at all that the guy creating the music I so dearly loved was a bit of a knob. Because to be quite honest, his creations were brilliant regardless. There was something so honest and up-front and emotional about his work, both inside and outside of Porcupine Tree, that the listener just simply forgot. It just didn't matter. Of course it could be pretentious and indulgent and tiresome at times, but right up through the release of Grace for Drowning, (Wilson's most pretentious and indulgent and tiresome release at the time) there was a soul and passion and honesty throughout the proggiest and the poppiest of his spectrum that just made the songs shine. I may question the stupid drivel that Wilson spews when speaking in interviews, but I never questioned his musical decisions for a moment, because I knew it all had to make sense to him. He was following his heart, and his listeners were following too.

The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), however, I cannot bring myself to understand. I said I didn't let Wilson's personality cloud my judgement of his music and this was true, and perhaps in part because Wilson greatly left his own idiocy out of his songs. That is not the case here. Raven... is a straight-up 'prog' album; only one cut ventures below the 7-minute marker, and most of the longer cuts are typical winding prog epics, segment after segment of technicality and instrumental wankery. What I'm trying to say is, Raven... is King Crimson without the King Crimson. King Crimson were fresh and exciting – this feels old and stale. Not only have we heard it before from the countless prog bands this album not only pays homage to but flat-out imitates, but, damnit, we've heard it from Wilson himself before too. Raven... feels like little more than Grace for Drowning Part II. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if the former was nearly as fresh or soulful or inspired as the latter, but it quite frankly isn't. We've heard this before, and we've heard it better.

It's also difficult not to question some of Wilson's musical decisions here. On one of his many rambling, pretentious rants, the star of our show claimed that he didn't like overlong 'prog' music that wound through endless, directionless segments and pieces. Yes, that's right, Steven Wilson said he didn't like long prog songs. In a way, at the time, I bought this, because there's always been a unique pop sensibility to Wilson's discography that has really made his music all the more alluring. What would In Absentia have been without 'Trains' or 'Blackest Eyes?' What would The Sky Moves Sideways have been without glorious melodies like those in 'Stars Die' or 'The Moon Touches Your Shoulder?' With this in mind, I thought yes, I can believe you here Steven, against the odds. So why on earth, then, is Raven... seemingly a complete homage to everything we just quoted Wilson supposedly hating? Opener 'Luminol' trudges through segment after segment of proggy indulgence exactly as previously described. It's not a bad track; technically it's all very nifty and there's some neat melodies too, but it just doesn't make any sense. Regardless, it's not exactly an outstanding track either; it's a prog track. We've heard it before, we've heard it better, and we'll hear it again.

And the album never lifts off from here either. It's overflowing with nifty but totally soulless musical wankery; songs like 'The Holy Drinker' and 'The Watchmaker' just drag on and on and on, wavering closer to cheap rip-off than nostalgic homage to their influences. It's disappointing to say the least from an artist who's been twice as engaging at twice the track length. Wilson tries to play his other strengths too, but somehow just falls flat on his face; 'Drive Home' and 'The Raven That Refused to Sing' just seem to lack the heart and soul that would make them the emotional and atmospheric adventures they should have been, and while 'The Pin Drop' should be utilizing Wilson's ability to whip up catchy, summery guitar lines as a stark juxtaposition to the dark nature of the record and indeed other parts of the song, it's just ripping off an old Porcupine Tree B-side and tacking some new melodies on it.

Too much instrumental wankery, a lack of emotion and an overriding sense of 'this has been done before' certainly don't make for a bad album, but they do make for the first truly uninteresting thing Wilson has ever recorded. It's confusing and frustrating, especially when the flaws of the album seem to be caused by Wilson backtracking on everything he's so passionately stood up for before, but, looking back, I suppose this is to be expected. This isn't the first time Wilson's contradicted himself. From a man who supposedly despises the commercialization of the music industry and artists who are “just in it for the money,” one has to question the motivation behind him releasing jaw-droppingly expensive limited editions of every scrap he sends to his record label? And why else would a man who isn't at all swayed by modern fads and styles show up to a concert wearing a crop top (yes, a crop top) if he wasn't trying to start or follow some sort of trend?

What I'm getting at is that maybe Wilson is loosing touch with his own morals and musical decisions, and maybe this confusion is the cause of this strange little hiccup in Wilson's repertoire. Why is a man so confident in his own sound trying so hard to sound like someone else? Why drop everything that made his own music his own in some strange attempt to replicate the magic of other bands? It's just...weird. We can only hope that Raven... is a simple fluke, and that Steven will be able to re-capture his musical brilliance in the next installment in a series that surely cannot be over just yet.



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user ratings (699)
Chart.
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
KerfuffleinaHussle
August 4th 2013



759 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

First time writing a negative review; it's a whole different beast altogether, I gotta say.

Any constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. I'm aware most people won't agree with my opinions here!

Rowan5215
August 4th 2013



25677 Comments


Don't agree with a lot of this, particularly the line about it lacking emotion (cmon man, the title track is the most moving thing he's ever done) but very well-written review.

Digging: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
August 4th 2013



15907 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"What would In Absentia have been without 'Trains'"

Better.

I'm not a fan of Wilson's public persona either but I think maybe you concentrated too much on that and the review begins to sound like a rant. Well written rant tho.


Digging: Hominido - Estirpe Litica

KerfuffleinaHussle
August 4th 2013



759 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I'd say the title track was the highlight here for sure. I probably should have mentioned that, but I
cut out that paragraph and another one for length's sake. I appreciate that, thank you!

Menawati: Yeah it is a bit rant-like. I realized that about the time I cut out the entire paragraph
about the Insurgentes documentary, haha. Thanks for the pointers!

MrSirLordGentleman
August 4th 2013



4321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

technically the format of the review is ok, but everything that it says (including the rate) is false

DirEnRefused
August 4th 2013



2168 Comments


the review is essentially well written, but i can't help but get the impression your girlfriend cheated on you with steven wilson or something.

KerfuffleinaHussle
August 4th 2013



759 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

"the review is essentially well written, but i can't help but get the impression your girlfriend cheated on you with steven wilson or something."

Hahahahaha! That would be something! Thanks

Negged already, oosh

Drummerboy123
August 4th 2013



2344 Comments


Gotta agree with ya here. Good review, people negging because it ain't a 4.

Love PT but hate Wilson's solo stuff. Just sounds so tedious and dull.

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

Keyblade
August 4th 2013



14721 Comments


Better than most PT

Digging: Strawberry Switchblade - Strawberry Switchblade

Drummerboy123
August 4th 2013



2344 Comments


This doesn't even come close to touching In Absentia and Fear of a Blank Planet IMO

MrSirLordGentleman
August 4th 2013



4321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

worse than In Absentia
better than Fear of a Blank Planet

JokineAugustus
August 4th 2013



5902 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This was pretty cool, will check again.

KerfuffleinaHussle
August 4th 2013



759 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

shit, well, there goes my approval rating

DrHouseSchuldiner
August 4th 2013



5643 Comments


Better than most PT [2]
Awesome album and aoty so far...nice rev,pos'd

KerfuffleinaHussle
August 4th 2013



759 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

"Better than most PT [2]
Awesome album and aoty so far...nice rev,pos'd"

Some of his previous solo stuff was imo, but not this. To each their own! Thank you, and thanks for the pos. Was starting to worry about all those negs!

BigPleb
August 4th 2013



36127 Comments


Agree with the rating but that summary is really dumb.

Digging: Arc Iris - Arc Iris

JokineAugustus
August 4th 2013



5902 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I didn't neg btw

Keyblade
August 4th 2013



14721 Comments


Luminol is the tits holy shit

dante1991
August 4th 2013



532 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love this album, it's album of the year for me so far. I will agree it's not as creative as "Grace" though, which I found outstanding. I disagree with you stating it's soulless, "The Watchmaker"'s lyrics are full of heart and emotion and the solo and piano bits sprinkled throughout "Drive Home" are just bliss.

KerfuffleinaHussle
August 4th 2013



759 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

"Agree with the rating but that summary is really dumb."

Edited it, hope you approve. Appreciate the constructive comment, much better than negging and
leaving. Thanks.

"I love this album, it's album of the year for me so far. I will agree it's not as creative as
"Grace" though, which I found outstanding. I disagree with you stating it's soulless, "The
Watchmaker"'s lyrics are full of heart and emotion and the solo and piano bits sprinkled throughout
"Drive Home" are just bliss."

That seems to be the general opinion. Might be worth pointing out that the 'soulful' guitar solo you
mention in Drive Home is not performed by Wilson, but I see your point. Maybe it just never
connected to me. I'm not a huge fan of the lyrics though; I think the record company claiming that
they evoked "Edgar Alan Poe and Charles Dickens" was, um, a bit much to say the least...

"I didn't neg btw"

Thanks!



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