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Wilson, Steven: The Future Bites

I’m a (credit) card carrying consumer. I bought the Deluxe Box Set. I snagged the Tour Edition Vinyl to get the exclusive 7” single track and I even purchased Electronic Music Magazine so I could obtain another coloured vinyl single with two mixes unavailable elsewhere. And yes, I feel good about myself. Thank you Mr Wilson. My only regret is that I didn’t have £10,000 at my disposal to jostle for the limited edition of one box with more exclusive music and tidbits beyond my wildest imagination (OK, beyond my wildest wallet…) - all proceeds to charity, so don’t write in to complain. But, even though sailing close to the wind with his lyrical jibes and observations regarding modern life’s addiction to self-love through consumerism, Wilson himself is a self-confessed retail therapy partaker, snapping up some of the very items his intentions here question. The song writer isn’t judging, he’s examining first and foremost himself, then in turn everyone else and life at large.

And what a release campaign he’s created around this album. In all honesty, by the time the sheer white and harsh black lettering on my intentionally insightful and humorous box arrived at my humble abode, the anticipation at unfurling posters, seeing myself reflected as a limited edition of one on the card mirror contained, read the fake (and funny) reviews of The Future Bites entity (not the music) and perused the ridiculous ‘warranty’, was reaching fever pitch. Teaser videos, physical format singles, billboards in Times Square and other major capitals across the world, along with Wilson himself being super active on YouTube during lockdown, all having me more excited for this album than any I can remember in quite some time. That Wilson and his Future seems to upset the ‘pure prog’ brigade who think all music should sound like it’s 1973, merely tickled me further, much though I love that music too and so does he!

High expectations? You betcha. In all honesty, having loved all of the Wilson solo catalogue, they couldn’t have been any further to the sky. So that The Future Bites hasn’t found one second letting me down, really is quite the thing. Yes, I’m a fan (addict?) and yes, I wanted to love this album, but then I’ve been let down by so many other acts over the years from exactly the same starting point. Instead, as “Unself” ambient noises itself into “Self”, you’re captivated through impeccable production and a tightly wound pop veneer. And yet, while this is a future shock biting, already, if you care sink into the mood, so we look to the past. Don’t let anyone, not even Wilson himself, tell you that either prog of yore, or indeed the protagonist’s own musical journey have been ignored here. No, this album doesn’t sound like the magnificent The Raven That Refused To Sing, but it does sound as though that bird took flight and found its voice.

“King Ghost” pings and twinkles like a deranged musical box, the big black bird of old spinning slowly at its centre as synths create the track almost single handedly alongside one of those piercing vocals that Wilson so specialises in. However it’s actually Porcupine Tree that comes to mind as the acoustic guitar strums into “12 Things I Forgot” - is this son of “Lazarus”? Well, not quite because we’re not so melancholy, whereas this time the pop-sheen takes us to the 70s in a thoroughly 2020’s fashion. It’s all about the melody, all about the mood and all about the fact that it makes you feel good and a little sad at the same time…

Not prog enough for ya? Well, don’t tell me that the huge female backing vocals, slap bass and swirling keyboard strikes of “Eminent Sleaze” didn’t originate in prime-time Pink Floyd. Hand-claps can’t make this slithering slide of a song upbeat and yet the groove is so deep that rumour has it different dimensions await anyone who dares dive inside. That it leads into the smoothest of harsh soundscapes in the shape of “Man Of The People” propels that notion into the stratosphere and far beyond. If Floyd had aimed beyond the Dark Side Of The Moon, they still wouldn’t have landed here, where clipped beats and stunning vocals are shattered and rebuilt by clean guitar strikes that caress the soul. Beauty and fragility all being held together by an immaculate mix, and production values that allow everything to meet in the middle as they explode apart.

The main talking point arrives somewhere and its right here as “Personal Shopper” finds the King Of Consumerism, Sir Elton Of John populating a mid-song breakdown reeling off all the desperately needless items we can’t live without, and which make us feel empty and content at the same time. However, there’s also a deeper vocal response from the big E-J that runs underneath the shiny gadget list which speaks much more of elusive inner happiness than the outer experience. When the beat kicks in, you better be ready to move, this is irresistible fare and anyone not gyrating to the popping snare and ever so hi-tech hi-hat, is nailing their feet to the floor to be oh so cool, Daddyo. On an album of multiple facets and ever greater heights, this is one track I just can’t get enough of. Oh, and have I mentioned those vocals? I have? Well, that falsetto is so controlled and controlling that I should be whispering about it into your ear for evermore…

Of course, the only way to follow that is with the hookiest hookster on show, “Follower” the comment on online life that we all know to be true but carry on buying into nonetheless. Informed by the quirk and catch of Sparks, it’s a breathtaking barrage, although the massive guitar pay-offs could even come from Collins era Genesis! Allowing the pensive comedown of “Count Of Unease” to bring us back to where this all began, ambient swirls surging round the senses in a style that almost cleanses the pallet so you can begin it all again.

And that’s it… unless you dig into the material on ‘Obsolete Media’ (cassette) in the Deluxe Set, where different mixes reveal other aspects and a song that got left behind, “Anyone But Me”, just about stealing the show, and of course the album in full on instrumental mode, or the bonus content CD………..

OK, enough already. You get the picture.

The Future’s Bright. The Future Bites. And I’ve been bitten.

Track Listing
1. Unself
2. Self
3. King Ghost
4. 12 Things I Forgot
5. Eminent Sleaze
6. Man Of The People
7. Personal Shopper
8. Follower
9. Count Of Unease

Added: February 14th 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Future Bites
Hits: 1445
Language: english

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