Botched prog rock
Alt-rock wizard Steven Wilson has traversed many soundscapes throughout his musical career, though his most recent venture is a solo career with inspiring creativity. The Future Bites is techno-rock with nerve, dissecting electronic rhythms and rock elements through years of experience in the spotlight. Though in doing this, he abandons prog-rock entirely, which has already disappointed many.
Personal identity, technology use and consumerism are themes that are weaved within this album. Wilson forgoes the anti-establishment façade to replace it with a more delicate motif of personality. While techno often lacks substance while being overshadowed by screeching tones, Wilson’s tracks are full-bodied.
The Future Bites starts with the demo-like track “Unself,” a sparsely instrumental layout that fades into the next track, “Self.” “Self” is more individualistic with lyrics, but Wilson’s echoed vocals accompanied by choir feedback make the song whole. Slightly reminiscent of the last No-Man album, an off-beat rhythm and ’80s synth keeps the momentum going, periodically abrupted with techno accents that don’t lose people’s interest. A bit slower is “12 Things I Forgot,” which combines Wilson’s substantial talent with sonic delays and eclectic guitar strums.
While Wilson has taken many forms musically, as a founder of Porcupine Tree, No-Man and member of many others, Wilson has evolved within his musical talent. Though after launching a solo career with his debut album in 2008, Wilson has been able to evolve and further progress his music, as a prog rocker should.
“Personal Shopper” is the centerpiece of this album, which carries the heavy burden of people either loving or hating it. Previous marketing tactics to help release this album have made clear that consumerism is a central theme (which seems ironic), though the musical style and lyrical combination make something substantial. Despite the almost 10-minute length of this ballad, this song is clever and catchy. A sudden middle ground in which a self-confessed consumer, Sir Elton John, reads a shopping list that grabs listener’s attention and cash.
“Eminent Sleaze” is rich and bold with dynamic bass riffs and a balance of hard and soft rock. This song is profound compared to the rest of the album. A chorus-like commentary occasionally chimes in that is quickly unsettled by ripping guitar, almost humanizing or highlighting the discord which the character of this song creates.
Further folding the envelope of Wilson’s musical repertoire is “Follower.” Setting the synth aside, this track has more rock, which balances this album. However, it seems to come short of what it should be, lacking depth and focus on antagonizing social media and influencers. While the drumbeats are thrilling and the guitar is on-point, this song lacks the complexity it deserves.
More played out on this album is “Man of the People,” a haunting ode to something more idealist than man himself. However, it is too soft, almost slow enough to disrupt the flow of the album itself. In similar style is “Count of Unease,” a lo-fi simple song consisting of Wilson, a piano and light percussion. Stripped down, this song forgoes the charades which are in other songs to create disparity for the listener. While it is an effective ending to the messages in this album, the song falls to some scrutiny as an ending to this falsified prog-rock album.
Wilson’s The Future Bites should not go unnoticed, as there are several elements that make it worth listening to. However, an unprejudiced listener might find the same inconsistencies noted above in a much shorter time. The album contains significant messages, but it lacks substance and falls short of Wilson’s prog-rock legacy. While it might be an experimental path he has chosen, it might not be the right one.