Steven Wilson
To the Bone


4.5
superb

Review

by Ben Kuettel STAFF
August 10th, 2017 | 230 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 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. This transformation feels appropriate, especially with the modern musical influences on predecessors Hand. Cannot. Erase. and mini-album 4 ½. To the Bone is a bold new direction for Wilson: a lush, diverse rock odyssey overflowing with creativity.

While sharing similarities with recent solo releases, this plunge into “intelligent pop” hearkens to 1980s music by Talk Talk, Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, and Kate Bush, according to Wilson. Successfully capturing the spirit of these kinds of artists, To the Bone harnesses those progressive qualities and brings them into the twenty-first century. To the Bone feels and sounds massive, made by an artist fearlessly entering unknown musical regions, straying from pure progressive rock towards a fine balance of psychedelic, forward thinking, yet streamlined rock music and electronica. “To The Bone” perfectly sets the stage for what the album has in store. The verses and choruses follow an upbeat, driving rock tempo as Wilson sings of the volatile nature of truth in our complex modern times. Plenty of guitar soloing and effects come up throughout, as well as a beautiful outro section.

Contributions by guest musicians, and new band members David Kollar and drummer Jeremy Stacey fit with the more melodic rock sensibilities Wilson chose to pursue. “Refuge” perfectly displays how essential each musician on the album was to how it turned out. After a highly effective build-up, the song climaxes with a soulful solo section across multiple instruments, a harmonica one courtesy of Mark Feltham of Talk Talk.

The pop rock songs on To The Bone are just as rewarding as the longer epics, including the peaceful, melancholic “Blank Tapes” featuring Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb, and the heavenly “Nowhere Now.” The most talked about and controversial single has been the ABBA influenced pop song “Permanating,” though fans need not worry about the rest of the album sounding anything like it. To The Bone is a wide spectrum of sounds and moods, with “Permanating” only being a small piece of a large, multi-colored stained glass window.

There are many dimensions to Wilson’s latest solo offering, as he experiments with multiple genres and dynamics. “Song of I” features an electronic heartbeat rhythm akin to Massive Attack, then a pleasantly surprising string quartet crescendo in the song’s middle. From this, to the mournful duet between Wilson and Tayeb in “Pariah,” to the psychedelic jamming of album highlight “Detonation,” To The Bone defies easy categorization with every song. Despite reminders of art pop records from the 1980s, this is Wilson’s most modern sounding and evolved solo album yet. He allows more hopeful emotions to thrive in his music than he ever did before, while appropriately addressing current world events from multiple points of view. Commenting on serious topics like immigration, political corruption, the perils of the Internet, and terrorism, his message is ultimately one of hope. “Song of Unborn” is an ambient, powerful ballad that ends To The Bone with a note of encouragement: “…Before you can speak, you will learn that it's all the same. And the dreams that you will have are public domain…. …The arc of your life can still be profound…. …Don’t be afraid to be alive.” Steven Wilson addresses future generations, encouraging them despite the turmoil of our world. He is attempting to reach a wider audience with To The Bone, dealing with universally human themes throughout. In multiple ways it feels like an album that anyone can enjoy.

What’s most rewarding about To The Bone is how song-based it is, while holding up to Wilson’s more complex musical past. Tracks like “The Same Asylum as Before,” “Song of Unborn,” “People Who Eat Darkness,” and “To the Bone” achieve this with stunning results. He displays that it’s just as impressive to make an effective pop song, as it is to create a progressive rock epic. Steven Wilson proves that an artist can venture into uncharted musical waters, even 30 years into their career, for ambitious and vibrant results like these.




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user ratings (83)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2017


15937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

https://soundcloud.com/steven-wilson



All five singles can be heard here.

Toondude10
August 10th 2017


11200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

of course you couldn't wait to squirt this out. Album might just be his best yet.

Digging: Leprous - Tall Poppy Syndrome

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2017


15937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

lol yea I've been sitting on this for a while. I don't think I've edited a review so many times as this one, it's gone through a few pretty different versions.

I could see this as being his best tbh, though H.C.E. is so emotionally resonant and personal idk

Toondude10
August 10th 2017


11200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

hence why I said "might"

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2017


15937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Yeah agreed, it's tough to choose.



My recs are pretty direct influences on this, the first four were named on the press release, and the album cover is nearly identical to Aladdin Sane by Bowie.

Gyromania
August 10th 2017


22466 Comments


I'm sure this is every bit as tedious and dull as everything else he's ever done

geofftatortott
August 10th 2017


78 Comments


His name is Stephen Wilton

Piglet
August 10th 2017


7190 Comments


disgusting album

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2017


15937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

agreed

Toondude10
August 10th 2017


11200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

man people are just tired of Steven Wilson being too good



*insert copypasta comment*

geofftatortott
August 10th 2017


78 Comments


He looks QUITE young for his age - Geoff

Toondude10
August 10th 2017


11200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

gotta agree there, he's almost 50 and he looks like he should be in his 30s at least

Gyromania
August 10th 2017


22466 Comments


95% of what he did with porcupine tree was boring as fuck. Haven't liked this solo albums much either. He has good songs here and there but overall one of the most overrated artists for sure

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2017


7509 Comments


^^I humbly beg to differ about Wilson's Porcupine Tree years, half of their discography is the shit.

Digging: Lock Howl - Pareidolia

Toondude10
August 10th 2017


11200 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

still need to listen to Fear of a Blank Planet actually now that I think about it.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2017


15937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

FoaBP has incredible softer moments, and the last movement of Anesthetize is possibly the band's best song. Reminds me a lot of a darker Shine on you Crazy Diamond.

Faraudo
August 10th 2017


1637 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

And Steven does it again.

Digging: Steven Wilson - To the Bone

zakalwe
August 10th 2017


22287 Comments


From what I've heard of it, it's definitely better than his last one.

Evokaphile
August 10th 2017


3927 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

So my question now is.... can I bone to it?

Digging: Incantation - Profane Nexus

Faraudo
August 10th 2017


1637 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

It depends on the type of boning you're looking for.



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