Review Summary: Wilson progresses further down the Art Rock road, down which he began to travel with 2017's "To the Bone", this time embracing those progressive pop and electronic elements.
I will preface this by saying, as an American, I have yet to receive the Deluxe Edition box set and have not listened to any bonus material outside of the B-Sides on "Eminent Sleaze" and "12 Things I Forgot", both of which I purchased.
Unself: Opening with nearly 7 seconds of silence, this song is pretty much a minute long. One of the two songs we got a good chance of hearing when Steven released "The Future Bites Tour Trailer" in 2019 on YouTube, at that point under the pseudonym "Volcanic Ash Soap", it was a stark contrast to the previous section of the video. As just an acoustic guitar, some keys, and Steven, this minute-long song seemed like it would have been similar to "Intro" from the live albums, but is in fact, so much more. A gorgeous piece of music that leaves me feeling complete with only a minute's worth of music [5/5]
Self: To me, this is the low point of the album and a stark contrast to "Unself". Here we get our first f-bomb, which, in this song, fits well in with the theme. I really enjoy the beat and the backing vocals in the chorus. While the children towards the end might seem off putting, it works well with the theme of the song, noting how those who see themselves as the centre of the universe are just children. The video for this song is also really creepy, and not in a good way like "Remainder the Black Dog". This said, the low voice, like in "The Twilight Zone", "Slave Called Shiver" and "Detonation" is the worst of the four and sounds like a Subdivisions knock-off, making it really off-putting in the song, where it appears throughout. [3.5/5]
King Ghost: I remember when this was released because it was deleted from YouTube when I went to look for it, and I instead had to download it from reddit. I was... displeased. When it was fully released, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the change from then to its actual release was enormous. The wordless chorus is beautiful alongside the swelling loops. The title-dropping refrain in the robotic voice is perfect. I also enjoy the spoken word section, even though some of the words are unable to be deciphered (Scioca... the province?). All in all, a beautiful song [5/5]
12 Things I Forgot: I was initially not a fan of this song until I heard the version from "The Future Bites Sessions", which made me appreciate this song more. I might be the only one who thinks this song, while it sounds like Blackfield, also sounds like the material from 4 1/2, and would elevate that E.P. I hear bits of "My Book of Regrets" and "Happiness III" throughout. Were this song to be on a compilation of Steven's work, it would fit well with those two tracks. The acoustic guitar and piano compliment the vocals well, and that chorus is the catchiest on the album. [4.5/5]
Eminent Sleaze:This is my favorite on the track. Not only does it have a nice beat, but it has Nick Beggs back on the Chapman Stick and Adam Holzman back on keys. The background vocals are back on the chorus, which really nails home the theme of the song and its successor: There are people in this world who are horrid but they are so well loved that no one calls them out for the bastards they are. I feel as though this is Steven putting the 2017 #MeToo movement to music. The guitar solo around the 3:00 mark also nails this point home, as it feels as though the skips in the solo symbolize the pieces these eminent sleazes lack. [5/5]
Man of the People: I consider this song the "Tinto Brass" but with lyrics. It is soft throughout but with two notable heavy parts: after the chorus the first time and right at the end. This song, to me, is lacking throughout until after the second chorus. We get the first part of the chorus again and "Hush now, the winter gets you", which saves this song in my opinion. [3.5/5]
Personal Shopper: This got me to preorder the deluxe edition in March 2020. It was also the other notable track heard in the YouTube teaser, under the title "Multi-Vitamin Supplements" with the line "Sell it all and buy it back / Buy the *** you never knew you lacked". Although we have a nice beat, a sweet and long guitar coda, the background vocals chorus and Sir Elton John (the most famous personal shopper) doing a spoken word section, my favorite parts are the bridges. Steven delivers beautifully harmonized tenor vocals. The falsetto vocals, while offsetting at first (much like "The Same Asylum As Before"), they begin to grow on you (much like "Same Asylum"). I also really enjoy the music video, and while the theme is not unique (consumerism consumes us), it really nails the point of the song home. [5/5]
Follower:Talk about a catchy refrain (Oh, follow me follow me / oh, follow me follow me), so much so that, before the chorus comes back again, I assumed the refrain would hit double, only to get a shock when all I heard was myself singing. We also get an almost album title drop in the chorus, which again explores that harmonized tenor. As for the lyrics, while strange ("Wind up the bull with the red rag" is on par with "So now your chickens are coming home to roost"), they are pretty good, except for the second f-bomb, which acts more like the one on "The Incident" than on "Even Less (Full Version). I would also like to add that I agree with what DK Media Music said about the intro, in that it "sounds like a spiritual successor to 'Jupiter Island'", which I personally enjoy. [4.5/5]
Count of Unease: Yes, this song sound like "Collapse the Light Into Earth", "Insurgentes", and "Song of I", but that doesn't detract from it. Much like those songs, the beauty is not in the lyrics, of which there are few, but in the music, which ends the album on an emotional note. To connect this to another band, it reminds me of Radohead's "Videotape", which I consider not as good as this song. [4.5/5]
Overall, while one reviewer called this the OK Computer for the Amazon age, I consider it more like the KID A of the Amazon age, in that it fully embraces the electronic sounds while not straying from being a Steven Wilson work. I do wish it were longer (42 minutes is not enough), but I assume the extra songs on the bonus disc and the Cassette (pronounced Obsolete Media) will help to add to the experience. As for the B-Sides, "Move Like a Fever" sounds like disco but depressing [4/5], "King Ghost (Tangerine Dream Mix)" is not my cup of tea [2/5], "Eyewitness" is "Man of the People" but with some energy [4.5/5], and "In Floral Green" is an amazing and gorgeous cover of an underrated Prog God (and, possibly, a bit of a quid pro quo given that John Mitchell covered "The Nostalgia Factory" a few years back). [5/5]