STEVEN WILSON – The Future Bites (2021)

STEVEN WILSON - The Future Bites (2021) full

STEVEN WILSON built a cult following with 2013’s The Raven That Refused to Sing and 2015’s Hand. Cannot. Erase. by offering a modern take on classic progressive rock, heavily alluding to the past without sounding too retro. But for all of the diverse sounds and influences that his music has synthesized to date, he possesses a particularly strong pop sensibility.
That’s the case even more than before with his upcoming album “The Future Bites” with the melodic poppy elements pushed even further to the forefront. Gone are the lengthy solos, extended instrumental sections and multi-part suites, and in their place are concise songs, radio-ready refrains, still unique in its craft.

“Buy for comfort, buy for kicks/Buy and buy until it makes you sick,” Steven Wilson sings on “Personal Shopper,” the lead single from The Future Bites. The former Porcupine Tree frontman is well aware of the hypocrisy in decrying consumerism while also hocking a “deluxe edition box set” of the album that retails for $95.99, as that exact phrase is mentioned by guest Elton John in the spoken-word bridge of the song, among a laundry list of more mundane products like sunglasses, teeth whitener, and anti-aging cream.

Although it is not a narrative concept album, “The Future Bites” certainly has central themes involving consumerism, ego and power, and so we begin with the one-two punch of the acoustic mix (and much too-short) of “Unself” giving way to the tightly-wound “Self” which puts the audience squarely in the modern age, and with a swagger to boot.
Indeed, it’s hard to sit still during this little gem, complete with percolating rhythm guitar line, female backup up singers and a compact, effective arrangement. You can pretty much see the curtain falling on the stage as his upcoming tour starts with this opening salvo, lights blazing on a futuristic set design.

On the majority of the album’s tracks, guitars and drums take a backseat to keyboards and propulsive electronic rhythms. This allows Wilson to use his somewhat limited vocal range to great effect; studio-crafted harmonies have always been the musician’s stock in trade, but they’re perhaps even more powerful when they aren’t forced to compete with the backing of a full rock band.
“King Ghost,” meanwhile, allows the strength of Wilson’s plainspoken tenor to come through in the verses, before his gentle falsetto floats over a crest of beats during the chorus.

The presence of Roger Waters seems to hang about much of the album, perhaps due to the strong thematic conviction of its author, or perhaps from the copious use of backing female singers throughout, but nowhere are the cynical ruminations on power and control more apparent than in the swagger of “Eminent Sleaze”. A delightfully acerbic track, its rootsy bass contrasts well with the sweeping orchestral lines. This is a song made for Wilson’s larger-than-life vision of “The Future Bites” and it’d be interesting to know if he enjoyed playing the protagonist in the accompanying video

“12 Things I Forgot” is lightweight rock that wouldn’t sound out of place playing over the end credits of a rom-com, however, in Wilson’s hands, it’s much more meaty than it looks at first listen.
Wilson is most at home when trafficking in melancholia, and two of the album’s ballads, “Man of the People” and “Count of Unease,” stand alongside his best work.
“Man of the People” is a blissful five minutes of atmospheric Wilson that is overwhelmingly satisfying. It’s still in a compact pop-format but the arrangement allows the piece to breathe, sway and entice with some of Wilson’s finest vocals to date.

“Follower” is a driving piece that fits right in with the vibe of the album, sonically somewhere between “Personal Shopper” and “Eminent Sleaze”, bringing loud and obnoxious guitar squeals to the fore at one point.
“Count of Unease” concludes the album with a typical Wilson farewell (think “Collapse the Light into Earth” or “Song of Unborn”), offering a natural comedown from the futuristic bombast of most of the album.

All this in a tidy 42-minute package. Truly, it goes by so quickly that one finds it quite easy to just start the album over again at its conclusion.
It’s different form what Wilson has been doing so far, but a damn good album on its own, one which will likely bring in a fair number of new listeners who hopefully will work their way backwards through the catalog.

For, no matter what the subjective opinion of the listener, there is the recognition that in Steven Wilson we have found a musician who craves new challenges, new sounds, new inspiration. An artist who isn’t scared to go there.
Brilliantly produced by Wilson and David Kosten, it sounds great in a way that no other Steven Wilson album has. One of the boldest and best albums Steve Wilson has made.
Highly Recommended


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

Steven Wilson – vocals, guitar, synths, percussion
Rotem Wilson – vocals
Nick Beggs – bass
Michael Spearman – drums
Wendy Harriott, Bobbie Gordon, Crystal Williams – bkng vocals
Elton John – guest vocals
Roger Waters – guest vocals


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1 Response

  1. David Furnish says:

    Thank yo very much.

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