Review: Steven Wilson – 4 1/2

DavidLove and marriage. Horse and carriage. Go together like… well, prog and Wilson. Winner of three prizes at the Progressive Music Awards ceremony last year (see Singer Steven Wilson crowned prog rock king) Mr Wilson is clearly at the top of his game. One of the prizes he won was for his 2015 solo album Hand. Cannot. Erase. and he is currently in the studio working on his fifth solo album…

Steven Wilson - 4 1/2 (Album cover)Which brings us to this album, an “interim” release, between his fourth and fifth solo albums; hence the title “4 1/2″. It has six tracks and a 32 minute running time. Five of the songs were originally created while creating previous albums and the sixth is a reworking of a track previously recorded with Porcupine Tree. That may not sound too promising: left-overs and rejects not good enough to make it onto previous releases. With other artists, that could be grounds for concern, but these are tracks from the”king of prog”. Even the weakest of the tracks is interesting and the best of them is outstanding!

The first track is “My Book Of Regrets”. It has an unpromising start with the lyrics proclaiming: “In the back of a cab in London town…” – seriously!? “London town”? Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for it to get better. As the song develops, we are treated to some hefty guitar solos and insanely complex bass lines. It clocks in at nine and a half minutes but doesn’t overstay its welcome for one second.

Next up is “Year Of The Plague” which is slow, quiet and hypnotic. It is followed by “Happiness III” which, as the name suggests, has a much more upbeat feel. The lyrics are delivered in a very understated manner and the word “Sorry” features heavily in the chorus but there is no need to apologise for this track My only complaint is, it finishes far to soon.

“Sunday Rain Sets In” is another downbeat song but then comes my favourite track on the album – “Vermillioncore”. Discordant, funky and jazzy with astonishingly complex drum patterns and growling riffs with big synth chords behind it. Love. This. Track. Around the three minute mark the sound fades briefly but then drums kick back in… then the other instruments… then crashing guitar with swirling, almost random synth before the growling riff comes back in all its glory. Have I already said it? Love. This. Track.

The closing song is “Don’t Hate Me” which is a new version of old track. It is not hugely different from the Porcupine Tree version but the guest vocals on the chorus, from Ninet Tayeb, are excellent and really lift the song. The lyrics bring us back to London, nicely bookending the album. The track has a slow start but delivers an outstanding sax solo halfway through.

No half measures in this release. It is perhaps a spring clean, to get some old material out the way and clear the decks for his next album. If so, I for one can’t wait to see what the next release brings!

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