Produced by Steven Wilson and David Kosten. Engineered by David Kosten. Recorded at Mutley Ranch, London and Snap Studios, London from May 2019 to early 2020. Album cover photography by Andrew Hobbs. Art direction by Simon Moore.
Released Friday 29 January 2021 on Caroline International.
If you haven’t come across musician, songwriter, producer, guitarist, vocalist, and all-round national treasure Steven Wilson then where have you been? Stop reading this immediately and go and check out his Wikipedia entry and then his extensive back catalogue, whether it is with Porcupine Tree, his solo work (of which this is album number six) or the very many collaborations, productions and remixes that he’s worked on, including Fish (ex-Marillion), Marillion, Steve Rothery (Marillion), Theo Travis, Opeth, John Wesley, Dream Theater, Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Steve Hacket (ex-Genesis) Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), et al.
While much of Wilson’s solo output has been firmly in the progressive rock camp, some of it definitely taking more than one listen to connect with, The Future Bites is a much more accessible affair, drawing a lot of influence from 80s pop—think Peter Gabriel, Talk Talk and Kate Bush.
According to Wilson, “The Future Bites deals with two recurring themes of my musical output, identity and technology. It picks apart our 21st century utopia, while also allowing for moments of personal growth and optimism. It’s less a bleak vision of an approaching dystopia, more a curious reading of the here and now.”
“Unself” (track 1) is a short introduction to the album, a soundscape with gently strummed guitar and harmonic vocals. that blends into the poppy “Self” (track 2)—a fabulously melodic chorus with a bass line that bubbles beneath a muted guitar riff.
“King ghost” (track 3) has echoes of “Plague of Ghosts” that Wilson worked on with Fish. It’s a very subtle and understated track that slowly seeps into your soul.
“12 things I forgot” (track 4) is a guitar and bass-driven track with a fun and catchy melody. Certaintly one to add to your summer driving compilation. This track never fails to lift my spirits.
In sharp contrast, “Eminent sleaze” (track 5) has a dark and dirty bass line that slithers through this track, gathering pace in the chorus, which opens into a soulful, gospel-esque celebration.
“Man of the people” (track 6) brings the mood back down with this synth and drum-machine-led track of ethereal and breathy vocals. It starts to opens up in the middle, like watching a storm on the horizon slowly drifting towards you, but it disperses before drenching you.
“Personal shopper” (track 7) continues the dark mood with a bouncing bass line and distant vocals. But it soon blossoms with a punchy, disco-esque beat and melodic chorus sung by backing singers. Elton John’s spoken shopping list really takes this track to new levels. As Wilson himself says about the track, “The song […] sits somewhere between being a love-letter to shopping (which I love to do!) and the uneasiness I feel about the more insidious side of modern consumerism.”
“Follower” (track 8) has an electronic pop feel as it rattles along like a steam train, passing occasionally through a tunnel of distortion or slowing into a station to pick up a couple of new riffs.
In stark contrast, “Count of unease” (track 9) sees out the album with a slow and gentle burn that ebbs and flows in intensity. It is quite a beautiful track.
So, here’s the thing. I have loved almost everything that Steven Wilson has created. There are some moments on the early Porcupine Tree albums and Wilson’s first couple of solo albums that don’t always connect with me, but as with almost any album I listen to, I rarely ever skip tracks—I want to hear the album as the artist intended not pick and choose. If I’m re-watching a film, I don’t skip to my favourite parts—I appreciate the whole story arc.
I appreciate that The Future Bites‘ roots in 1980s pop won’t be for everyone, but for me, I love this album.
Review score: 95%