Steven Wilson - The Future Bites review



Reviewer:
N/A

106 users:
6.57
Band: Steven Wilson
Album: The Future Bites
Release date: January 2021


01. Unself
02. Self
03. King Ghost
04. 12 Things I Forgot
05. Eminent Sleaze
06. Man Of The People
07. Personal Shopper
08. Follower
09. Count Of Unease


*The deafening screeches of a thousand boomers on Steven Wilson's official Facebook group as their favorite artists makes a pop album with more synths than guitars*

A lot of the older prog rock fans might have already lived through something similar first-hand, back when the original prog rock sound was starting to lose its commercial appeal as synth pop was gaining traction. Genesis went from Selling England By The Pound to Invisible Touch, as both its lead singers started their own successful pop careers, Yes went from Close To The Edge to 90125. Even prog acts that retained their quirkiness played around with new wave sounds a lot more, like on King Crimson's Discipline or Rush' Power Windows. Pink Floyd had that disco groove "Another Brick In The Wall" as far back as 1979. Other than Jethro Tull being more metal than Metallica, the 80s weren't exceptionally kind for prog rock, but in retrospect a lot of those prog rock giants going pop gave us some of the best music of the 80s. And yet, Steven Wilson's The Future Bites doesn't find a prog rock artist struggling to keep up with the times, when most of its fanbase would be very happy to see him making the exact same prog rock.

It seems that Steven Wilson just is in a phase where he finds synths more exciting than guitars. It's not like there are no guitars on The Future Bites. It's not like he never made pop music before. His work with Blackfield or No-Man borders pretty often on pop, Porcupine Tree had its fair share of ballads, and my two favorite songs from To The Bone captured the two directions of The Future Bites: the poppy "Permananting" and the electronic "Song Of I". People already cried "pop" at that one. Since I liked those cuts most, you can expect that I was pretty excited for The Future Bites.

I tried avoiding listening to the singles, even if I already got the idea of what direction this album was going into. When I first gave this album a listen, it was in a playlist with a lot of other albums released that day listening on my speakers while working. I thought it was pretty disappointing. Now I gave it (and The B-Sides Collection that preceded and accompanies it) a more attentive listen on my best earphones. Let's just say I'm no longer disappointed. Steven Wilson's work as a musician is pretty well-known, but his work as a producer (that even lead him to remastering a lot of the biggest prog classics) is on full display here, and it is that that really necessitated my full attention and the best sound system. This is so pristine and lush in its production that it's an absolute treat to listen to on that department, just for how well the synth soundscapes and the bass sound together.

Now obviously, there's more to this album than sounding amazing. The songwriting and performances aren't as great as the production quality, not in the sense that they are bad by any means, but that the strengths of this record are pretty obvious. A lot of the songs do deliver the promise of synthier pop cuts, but there's still some relics of the Porcupine Tree-esque ballad in songs like "12 Things I Forgot" or "Count Of Unease", and it's those songs I feel least excited about. Songs like "King Ghost" or "Eminent Sleaze" don't sound like anything Steven has done before. The bass grooves are generally pretty great and work well with the synth lines, and with the presence of the guitars greatly reduced, what moments they do have are even more impactful. The songwriting as a whole definitely doesn't make any of the songs sound like something you'd hear on a mainstream radio, rather more in line with the 80s nostalgia that some of the mainstream radio also experiences (if the newest The Weeknd, Miley Cyrus and Dua Lipa didn't make that clear), but directed in a more progressive pop direction of the acts previously mentioned in the opener, with some of the electronics going either in a 80s synthpop or a 90s trip hop direction (see "King Ghost").

The vocals are something I'm a bit ambivalent towards. The backing vocals are one of the greatest things about the record, often reminding me of late era Pink Floyd in their use, especially in "Eminent Sleaze". But Steven's vocals show that he isn't really cut from the same cloth as a pop musician, hence why a lot of his poppier affairs in other projects had other people doing the vocals. Probably one of my favorite is "King Ghost" that sounds like a mix between Massive Attack and Conjure One and the heavily processed vocals lose a bit of what makes Steven Wilson Steven Wilson. That said, both some of the lyrics and some of the spoken word sections drag the album down with its fairly shallow anticonsumerist messages that range from somewhat biting to either something your dad would share on Facebook about teens being on their phones all the time or that college bro that is really impressed with that one Fight Club quote. It isn't often as distracting as in its worst moments, and the cringier moments are washed away by how great the music is. Especially now that the marketing for the album is mostly in the past.

What I don't really understand is how the selection was made between what would end up on the main album and what would end up on the The B-Sides Collection, since I find all of the cuts on the latter (except the remix of a track, which makes sense being on the B-album) to be better than at least half the tracklist of the main album. Bottom line is: listen to both.


 



Written on 03.02.2021 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments

Comments: 12   Visited by: 219 users
03.02.2021 - 20:58
Daniell
_爱情_
Apart from the "what the heck is this even doing on a metal website" gripe, I must say that this is most certainly the weakest release Steven Wilson has ever graced the world with. I listened to this album 4 times in a row and all I had to say was "fuck off with this shit man". Mind you, I don't mind the genre, it's just that the songs really suck.
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03.02.2021 - 22:00
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Daniell on 03.02.2021 at 20:58

Apart from the "what the heck is this even doing on a metal website" gripe, I must say that this is most certainly the weakest release Steven Wilson has ever graced the world with. I listened to this album 4 times in a row and all I had to say was "fuck off with this shit man". Mind you, I don't mind the genre, it's just that the songs really suck.

Can't say I share your opinion. I liked To The Bone a lot less. This is one I actually feel like returning to even if I don't like all the songs.
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Jusqu'ici, tout va bien...

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03.02.2021 - 22:21
Milena
gloom cookie
"Genesis went from Selling England By The Pound, as both its lead singers started their own successful pop careers" > think there's a missing clause here!

Nice to read a balanced account, I've been reading nothing but "this is a disgrace and I miss Porcupine Tree" and "the real disgrace? people having any expectations of my favorite artist, Steven Wilson, the only person worth listening to".
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7.0 means the album is good
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03.02.2021 - 22:28
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Milena on 03.02.2021 at 22:21

"Genesis went from Selling England By The Pound, as both its lead singers started their own successful pop careers" > think there's a missing clause here!

Nice to read a balanced account, I've been reading nothing but "this is a disgrace and I miss Porcupine Tree" and "the real disgrace? people having any expectations of my favorite artist, Steven Wilson, the only person worth listening to".

Fixed, thanks for pointing that out!
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Jusqu'ici, tout va bien...

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03.02.2021 - 23:28
JoHn DoE
Written by RaduP on 03.02.2021 at 22:28

Written by Milena on 03.02.2021 at 22:21

"Genesis went from Selling England By The Pound, as both its lead singers started their own successful pop careers" > think there's a missing clause here!

Nice to read a balanced account, I've been reading nothing but "this is a disgrace and I miss Porcupine Tree" and "the real disgrace? people having any expectations of my favorite artist, Steven Wilson, the only person worth listening to".

Fixed, thanks for pointing that out!


There were 13 years between SEbtP and Invisible Touch. Most 70s prog artists went pop or at last made their music more accesible, sometimes not by their own choice. I think Steven has the freedom to do whatever he wants.
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I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
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04.02.2021 - 07:45
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by JoHn DoE on 03.02.2021 at 23:28

Most 70s prog artists went pop or at last made their music more accesible, sometimes not by their own choice. I think Steven has the freedom to do whatever he wants.

Well yes. I made that point already.
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Jusqu'ici, tout va bien...

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04.02.2021 - 08:57
JoHn DoE
Written by RaduP on 04.02.2021 at 07:45

Written by JoHn DoE on 03.02.2021 at 23:28

Most 70s prog artists went pop or at last made their music more accessible, sometimes not by their own choice. I think Steven has the freedom to do whatever he wants.

Well yes. I made that point already.


yes, but imagine if Invisible Touch came two albums after SEBTP. This is kind of the shock here. Steven went art-pop like in 5 years or so.
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I thought the two primary purposes for the internet were cat memes and overreactions.
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04.02.2021 - 13:58
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Now we need new category, worst album artwork....
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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04.02.2021 - 19:07
IanYeara
I didn't hate To the Bone, but I thought it was disappointing. I don't hate this album, but it's even more disappointing. I only made it through the whole album once so far, I've started it at least three times and gotten bored very quickly and moved on to other new albums that are far more interesting. I don't care if Steven Wilson would rather write pop, but if he's going to it had better be the best damn pop album the world has seen; this is not that. My opinion, skip it.

6/10
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04.02.2021 - 20:46
Milena
gloom cookie
Written by JoHn DoE on 03.02.2021 at 23:28

I think Steven has the freedom to do whatever he wants.

I think he does too. God knows I jumped up and down when Permanating started. But pretending that he only* gets negative comments and reviews because people think he's only allowed to do PTree stuff but better is getting a little old. He's done a lot of stuff since, some of it has been received better, and some worse.

*Not to take away from a legacy of every prog facebook group full of people that have been following Steven for half their lives just to be able to say "he's lost the plot in 2007 and he never got it back, the poor fella" every two or three years.
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7.0 means the album is good
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05.02.2021 - 10:20
Daniell
_爱情_
Written by JoHn DoE on 03.02.2021 at 23:28

I think Steven has the freedom to do whatever he wants.

He does, and I think that he is one of the best and most versatile music creators in the world of rock music. I've been a fan of his since around 2005 when I listened to "Deadwing", which made me explore Porcupine Tree's back catalogue. Since that album I've checked out everything he released. His solo output is as good as Procupine Tree was. I also respect the fact that he's never been afraid to experiment and broaden his musical interests.

But even such a versatile and brilliant artist as him can have a misstep, and this album certainly is one, in my opinion. I read a lot of comparisons to Genesis who went pop too. Yes, they did, and they made some of the best pop music in history. I love both their progressive and commercial side. Steven Wilson still has time to be as brilliant at making pop music as he is/was making prog. Time and next albums will tell, but until then, Future Bites is a small shitstain on the previously impeccable fabric of his musical career.
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05.02.2021 - 23:26
tea[m]ster
Au Pays Natal
To The Bone is a masterpiece to my ears, even with those songs that would point to this eventual destination. After my one and only listen (I will never go back) my thought is did he collaborate with Trent Reznor?
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rekt
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