Many recognise Steven Wilson as not only the mastermind behind the now-defunct Porcupine Tree, but also as a genius worldwide, in the progressive rock scene. Many have seen his work as original and highly productive from start to finish. However, not many would expect Wilson to take a diverse turn by incarnating pop-inspired music with his fifth solo studio album, To the Bone.
One of Steven Wilson’s attributes is usually delivering a miserable and gloomy nature to his compositions. While it is still present throughout this record, he has a way of making that depressing nature fit more into the background than actually placing it right in the front, making it so transparent to the listener. His projection of art rock, prog and pop music in To the Bone is definitely birthed from the likes of such masterpieces including Peter Gabriel’s So and Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring, along with influences from the likes of Radiohead, Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode.
Looking at the songs, Wilson’s opening title track ‘To the Bone’ draws inspiration from a similar style to that of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Red Rain,’ which features numerous world-inspired instruments and a progressive, upbeat, alternative rock approach. Wilson will then bring the Pink Floyd inspiration into ‘Nowhere Now’ and a mellow, tear-jerking step with the mildly electronic ‘Pariah,’ which features guest vocals from Ninet Tayeb, who later appears on the seventh and eighth tracks.
‘The Same Asylum as Before’ transitions the album into a rockier vibe, following alternative and indie elements, while ‘Refuge’ becomes a more comparable track to that of the title track. ‘People Who Eat Darkness’ is the heaviest track you’d get out of To the Bone, which comes with the upbeat ambience parallel to that of Wilson’s 2013 full-length The Raven That Refused to Sing. ‘Song of I’ and ‘Detonation’ almost pattern as two trip-hop pieces with atmospheric synthpop components.
As a whole, it seems like Steven Wilson hasn’t quite moved away from the conceptual side of himself like he did with his previous record Hand. Cannot. Erase., as well as the fact that he still desires to include electronic modules to keep the clockwork going. Wilson’s a very honest man, however. Therefore, because of his expansive taste in different forms of music, he’s able to express his love and artistry in a way that many aren’t able to comprehend easily. To the Bone is another result of what Wilson has always been about.
Many would forget that Steven Wilson, while being a prog icon, is a very experimental human being with what he chooses to create. Throughout each process, he’s able to allow anything in his life to inspire him, in order for another piece of his to be derived by the essence of each and every little thing that he admires. Personally, I think many of Wilson’s fanbase (more predominantly, his die hard Porcupine Tree fans) wouldn’t be able to warm up to this immediately, but it can eventually be seen as another one of his magnum opuses in his discography. As another Wilson fan, I feel that this one sat with me just fine, and can say it’s one of the more overlooked records of the year that needs to be analysed more by others, in order to understand the virtuosity and multiplicity of To the Bone.