Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Album Review 2013/2
The Raven That Refused to Sing and Other Stories
Or The Raven Didn't Make Me As Much Money as I Would Have Liked and Other Whines.
I'm sorry is that a wee bit cynical of me? I mean apparently a couple of days after the official release and hordes of fantastic reviews, Wilson was bemoaning the fact that someone - presumably someone he trusted - had leaked a copy of the new album onto that blasted Internet thing and subsequently the Hardest Working Man in Rock is probably going to starve to death... Well, do you know something, I wish I had found one of these elusive illegal copies (I looked in all the usual places and never saw hide nor hair of it), it might have saved me wasting £13 on something that in a few weeks might have bought me some food.
Several years ago, myself and two prog colleagues ventured to Wolverhampton to see Porcupine Tree. We got there in plenty of time and found the bar at the Civic Centre sold proper real ale, so we were made up. When we finally entered the arena, up where the band were due to appear was this 30 feet high sign saying something along the lines of "Do not use phones or mobile devices, do not record this show or take pictures of it, if you do we will kill you!" and it was being serious - Wilson is almost anally retentive about this kind of thing and yet despite coming across as an intelligent young(ish) man, he failed to notice that everyone in that arena was there to see him, had paid money to see him and to be fair if they record, badly, their favourite song and post it on You Tube, what real harm is it going to do? Or, I remember an interview with SW once where he said how angry he gets when fans bring up tapes of shows they've recorded on their phones or whatever and ask him to autograph it. Why? The same nerd is going to buy every album you release, because true, honest to God fans, BUY, so if they get something they can't buy, it isn't going to break your bank or take revenue away from you. Maybe to such a small and insignificant amount you could class those people as not true fans, but Steve, you're not Radiohead or Beyonce, mate, the amount of money you're going to lose from this kind of thing is negligible. Man up and stop being such a curmudgeonly geek.
But what about the album. Well, it wears its influences on its sleeves for all to see. Luminol is Yes, The Holy Drinker has elements of ELP in it and so far I've also heard some Crimson, some early Genesis and while he's channelling all of his heroes he's clearly forgotten how to write a tune. Insurgents was choc-a-bloc full of good rock songs; Grace For Drowning kind of suggested we were entering into the realm of the Law of Diminishing Returns and this album seems to prove that by offering up 6 songs which I would have struggled to include in either of the first two solo efforts. This album is up its own arse; seriously far; so far it could have a conversation with Wilson's epiglottis without a hint of irony.
I have listened to this album 6 times now; under the belief that its a grower, but while I have grown to appreciate a couple of tracks, the only real thing growing on me is the feeling that I've been conned and that Wilson's overall output in the 21st century has been generally disappointing. I'm looking back at Deadwing and thinking that when that came out I didn't like it because it wasn't a Porcupine Tree album as I knew it. That's a bloody classic compared to Wilson's solo efforts. The Raven That Refused to Sing and Other Stories is pretentious, it's an homage to many of the people that Wilson holds in high regard, it suffers from half of it not being at all good and if this is the future of SW then he can travel it without my scheckles. I'm really struggling to find positives about this album; I can't see it being on heavy rotation like many other SW projects, but if I want to be honest, I've felt that way about most of his stuff for a few years - The Incident had some great songs on it, but could have been a very tight single CD; Blank Planet might have been the breakthru album, but it's a mess, the first two solo albums had one really good album in there and that god-awful Storm Corrosion bollocks, which someone had the audacity to compare to Talk Talk, should have been the straw that broke the Raven's back. As Wilson becomes more commercially viable his music is becoming less interesting.
Perhaps I came into this wanting to dislike it; I mean, all of this disillusionment towards SW which has poured out in this review probably suggests that I was going to be in a bad place when I listened to it; but the thing was after being thoroughly disappointed by the Ulrich Schnauss album, I wanted this to be the dog's bollocks and it end up being just bollocks. It also could do with some tunes. Wilson has written some great tunes in the past... Oh, yeah, the past. Wilson is 45 now and we all know what happens to ageing rockers...
3 out of 10