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Steven Wilson – The Future Bites
Fans still smarting over Wilson’s previous album To The Bone, which I actually enjoyed, but some saw as him stepping away from his responsibility as keeper of the prog flame, will be inconsolable when they hear this collection of electronica flavoured vignettes.
I can see both sides of the argument. As an artist, Wilson has every right to move in whichever direction he chooses, but that brings with it the inevitability of disappointing and even losing some long standing fans who just wish he would spend the rest of his career regurgitating Pineapple Tree’s 2002 high point In Absentia or his solo masterpieces The Raven That Refused To Sing and Hand Cannot Erase.
There is a theme here in how consumerism in the age of social-media tries to identify us with targeted marketing and one magazine has even called it an “OK Computer for the Amazon age”, which really is stretching it a bit.
But The Future Bites is such a departure from the previous work of a man who has not only set his own bar impossibly high, but also improved on the perfection of others with his remixing and remastering work on some of the most iconic prog albums of the 1970s, that one wonders if it has partly been done as a deliberate middle finger to those who criticised To The Bone.
Less OK Computer and more OK, if you didn’t like the last one, suck, or rather bite, on this.”
But while we’re engaging in comparisons with Radiohead, thankfully it’s not a King of Limbs either, which didn’t just disappoint, it actually made me angry.
The pandemic, which delayed the album’s release by more than six months, immediately creates a different ambience to the usual stellar contributions of people like bassist Nick Beggs, who only appears on two tracks here, but it’s the material itself that sets The Future Bites apart.
Only two of the tracks come in at over the five minute mark and the album suffers for it with some songs over before they’ve had a chance to develop fully.
Then apart from rhythm guitar here and there, it’s mostly driven by keyboard lines and washes.
When a lead guitar does finally appear in the track Eminent Sleaze it’s like the equivalent of Jim Bowen saying: “and this is what you could have won”.
To put things into perspective, The Future Bites is nothing like a Thom Yorke solo album pasted together on a laptop (thank goodness!) but neither is it anything like a Steven Wilson album.
No one can blame him for that, but I know where my preference lies.