Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
Prog-rock is a genre that really separates people. Whilst many music fans actively revel in the complexity of it all just as many dismiss prog-rock with disdain as nonsense of the highest order. The difficulty is that as a genre it is somewhat hard to get to grips with due to its experimental nature. Experimentation in any form is not always going to yield positive results and often the eclecticism and strange mix of styles can often leave the most open minded music fan scratching his head as to what on earth it is they are listening to. For a long time the word prog-rock was synonymous with over the top, avant garde pseudo-intellectual pretentious music. The word conjured up images of ostentatious displays of vulgar virtuosity in which a band noodles endlessly with a guitar for 28 minutes straight whilst claiming it to be a piece about the social injustice suffered during the Franco Prussian war. Hardly suprising then that prog-rock became a dirty word reserved for only the most pretentious of musicians.
  However in recent years prog-rock has had somewhat of a revival in its popularity and as such has been trying its hardest to shift this notion that it's all overly complex nonsense. One of the key components and biggest players in this recent revival is Steven Wilson. Steven Wilson is probably most famous as lead singer and songwriter for Porcupine Tree, a fact that probably grates a bit, but he has also established a successful solo career whilst constantly working in a slew of other projects such as Storm Corrosion and Bass Communion and producing various other artists in the same vein. Needless to say Steven Wilson is an incredibly busy man. 
   "The Raven That Refused To Sing" is Mr Wilson's follow up to his 2011 masterpiece "Grace For Drowning" an album I reviewed quite favourably some time back on this very blog. The biggest change between the two records is most notably the involvement of several new band members including Guthrie Govan on guitar and Marco Minnemann on drums. The result is the assembly of some sort of prog-rock dream team and was originally a cause for concern. With so many talented musicians jostling for position on the tracks I could foresee the record being dogged by needless guitar solo's and potentially being rendered into something that was just too busy and cluttered. Luckily though this was not the case. The end result is an album of impressive scope that delivers a range of creepy ghost stories in a fun and entertaining way. The guitar work throughout whilst sometimes complex does not extend into the cringe worthy depths and the flute work that made "Grace For Drowning" so captivating is used sparingly. For all the supposed darkness of the record certain tracks on "The Raven..." are a lot more upbeat, the sound of the record is also a lot more comfortable than its predecessor that was morbid and utterly dread soaked in places.
   Overall Steven Wilson has delivered another stellar effort with "The Raven That Refused To Sing" the songs on offer whilst complicated and eclectic in range are strangely accessible. Whilst I personally prefer his last album "Grace For Drowning" I would still highly recommend "The Raven..." as a great place to start not only with his work but with prog-rock in general.


Of all the genres of alternative music I listen to, the one that I am most fastidious about is punk. Punk is an incredibly broad area of rock music and as much as it having been instrumental in the creation of many of my favourite genres Punk itself is incredibly difficult to do well or at least by my standards. The main reasons I struggle so much with relating to punk music as a whole is mostly down to the mind-bogglingly and predictable anti-establishment social commentary. I suppose in its own way it serves a purpose but do we really need a song about the Bush administration or the countless wars that are raging all over the world to realise that these things are unjust? What does a song by the Sex Pistols actually do to challenge a morally bankrupt government? Diddly squat. If it's not the ludicrously egocentric attitude that it can change the world that leaves me feeling callous it is normally the watered down aggression.
    Whilst old school punk bands were known for their harsh and raw sound many of today's biggest and most successful "punk" bands are pop-punk acts, a genre that in itself is a confusing mix of two things that really should be mutually exclusive. These pop-punk acts started to creep onto the music scene simultaneously with the nu-metal bands of the late nineties and early noughties and basically stripped back all the angst and rage of punk and turned it into something clean, clinical with little relation to punk at all, oh and they threw in a few funny jokes about cocks for good measure.
   This being the case it is extremely rare that I come across something punk that I actually enjoy. One such exception is Blasted. I first became aware of Blasted when I saw them live supporting the Bronx in November. Since then I've been to see them several times. Blasted don't bother with either of the two elements of punk that tire me out and simply go about their business playing visceral hardcore punk at a fierce pace. Their music is loud fast and downright filthy with most of their songs just scraping the 2 minute mark. The band are exceptionally tight live and really have to be seen to be believed.
   To date the band have released a limited run cassette tape of demos and their debut 7" ep "Time to die/Exposed" which is still available from dry heave records in two beautiful colours which I'm very proud to own. The bands full recorded discography so far is also available to stream through bandcamp. Whilst the band is still in its infancy they are definitely ones to watch.

Stream Blasted here: