As we close 2013, I thought it would be fun to go back to some earlier writings. Here’s my take on Steven Wilson’s first solo effort, Insurgentes. I wrote this December 31, 2008. As is obvious, I was rather smitten.
The most prolific and interesting musician of 2008, however, has to be Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, and No-man. A true audiophile, Wilson loves perfection and innovation as much as he loves beauty and tradition. Born November 3, 1967 (three days less than two months after I was born), Wilson is a masterful songwriter, singer, and lyricist. This year, Porcupine Tree released the EP “Nils Recurring”—outtakes from the outstanding 2007 cd, “Fear of a Blank Planet.” Like the members of Rush and of Riverside, Wilson takes his art very seriously. Even the outtakes are brilliant. I was especially struck by the third track, “”Normal,” an alternate take of “Fear of a Blank Planet”’s fifth track, “Sentimental.” Frankly, as good as “Sentimental” is, “Normal” is a much better and more interesting song. And, I’m sorry Wilson chose “Sentimental,” as “Normal” would’ve made “Fear of a Blank Planet” a nearly perfect album. As it is, it’s a great album. `
But, what struck me most about “Normal” was how similar it is to Kevin McCormick’s “Soleares” from several years back. Wilson claims to listen to nearly 10 new CDs a week, and he travels the world over playing and collecting music, so it’s possible he’s heard McCormick’s music. The similarities between the two men and their music is startlingly enough, even without “Normal” sounding like “Soleares. Only a week apart in age, they obviously listened to the same music growing up, and they each have an amazing ear for complicated, beautiful music. I can only imagine what astounding works the two of them might create if they ever worked together. They might very well re-make the music scene.
Wilson’s true genius, though, revealed itself in late November with the preliminary release of his solo album, “Insurgentes.” From the beginning to the end, it move ebbs and flows, but it never fails to captivate the soul and the mind. It is, to my mind, the best non-classical album of 2008, and it is the best thing Wilson has made. This is in no way, shape, or form minor praise, as 2008 has been a great year for progressive music, and Wilson has made some truly outstanding albums. The opening track, “Harmony Korine,” reminds me of what U2 might have done, had they ever embraced—fully—seriously complex and progressive music. The third track, “Salvaging,” is a worthy successor to Talk Talks “The Rainbow.” The fifth track, “No Twilight within the Courts of the Sun” has a Robert Fripp feel to it. The vocals (Wilson and Irish singer, Clodagh Simonds) on track six, “Significant Other,” are simply heavenly. Wilson’s guitar work on “Insurgentes” feels fresh, but it also reminds me of Robert Smith’s guitar work on The Cure’s 1993 live album, “Show”—but especially “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” “Never Enough,” “Cut,” and “End,” some of the finest 30 minutes of live music I’ve ever heard. The musicians on “Insurgentes” include bassist Tony Levin and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. The entire album grabs a hold of the listener until the last note plays. Even after, the music and the ideas linger.