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Review: Steven Wilson - 'The Future Bites' (released January 29, 2021)

I know a lot of old fans of Steven Wilson, especially the ones who were with him back in the Porcupine Tree daze, after having listened to some of the pre-release tracks available for The Future Bites, are distressed at his seeming abandonment of progressive rock...and they're not wrong.

Fortunately for me, my own musical tastes extend far out beyond progressive rock (and that’s not meant to be a diss to prog rock fans…you guys know what you love and you stick to it…nothing wrong with that!). But one of the things I've always admired about Steven Wilson is his continual push to explore every facet and realm of music he can. Currently, for him, it's pop music, something that, it seems, is anathema to die hard prog rock fans. But make no mistake, this isn't the Pablum normally coughed up mainstream outlets these days; this is cutting edge pop music that seeks to do new things. Only the lush, luminous and heart wrenching 12 Things I Forgot looks back towards the old Porcupine Tree songs of the past; it wouldn't sound out of place on Lightbulb Sun. The rest are a collection of songs out on the edge of modern pop, songs exploring mindless consumerism, social media, technology and loss of identity and other pitfalls of our modern world. Wilson puts a dirty swagger into Eminent Sleaze with its disco bite, and infuses the nearly 10-minute long Personal Shopper (definitely one of the highlights of the album) with deep electronic grooves while Sir Elton John of all people rhymes off a shopping list of absurd luxury items. Through it all, Wilson never loses his knack for writing not only beautiful, but memorable melodies. He never lets it sink to the insipid levels of so much modern pop these days.

I felt that 2017's To the Bone was a bit of a compromise; Wilson trying to explore his interest in pop music while also trying to please his old prog fans. It wasn't my favourite of his albums. The Future Bites lets the past go and blasts forward into the biting future, to glorious results.

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