Album Reviews

Album Review: Steven Wilson - The Future Bites (Caroline International)

Roger Bowie

Steven Wilson releases his 6th album and the question is so what?

The Future Bites has been cited as a deep reflection on the current world of technology and pervasive online influence and a dark representation of humankind’s essential selfish, consumerist perspective on life. 

Hmmmm. How does that reconcile with his own statement about making a concise record that would not feel overlong, and picking 9 songs from 30?

steven wilson unself

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“Unself” is a brief but familiar prog rock ballad which ends before it starts, because the real issue is “Self” which catapults into the listener’s consciousness as disco. What the f…? But it sounds like a paean to selfishness and narcissism and self-help and self-awareness and self-obsession which is a contradiction and a challenge because here is Steven Wilson with a disco-pop feel, and how do we feel about that? How can we possibly feel? Being entertained by a funky (fucking) clown? Nice chorus though.

“King Ghost” arrives in the form of a spoken word sung song, accompanied by an ethereal ghostly melodic choir and you ‘wash away the dirt, but you can’t wash away the failure’. And there’s spoken word, which comforts our progressive minds. And the song is longer, but just four minutes? How can he say anything in four minutes? Does it matter?

“12 things I forgot” is an extremely poppy solution to the conundrum. Steven Wilson has forgotten to progress in rock. Instead there’s an acoustic intro and then Beatles and then Muse and then Coldplay and even Ultravox, and Gary Kemp on backing vocals, but it’s a bloody good song only by someone else.

King Crimson pop arrives next, but with funk Frippery, maybe Robert is the “Eminent Sleaze”?

Further confusion appears in the form of a “Man of the People”, which starts of as a dreamy piece of pop as we used to know prefaced and progressed to many a fine 15 minute tune. And we also get seduced by the power chords of expectation, of a long instrumental piece, which sadly, in this case, never arrives. “I can take rejection, what does it take to get your attention” is our mournful moan.

But in truth The Future Bites has my attention, it’s just the connection that discombobulates….

And then, track 7, last third, that I start to get the picture. “Personal Shopper” starts off as an electronica mystery leading to Gary Numan land, but clearly furthering the theme of numanity’s place in an online world.  Frantic chorus chanting, almost gang vocal, ‘buy the shit you never knew you liked’, and  a Genesis/Floyd like bridge( consumer of life) gives us hope before the frantic pace resumes. For nearly 10 minutes, well maybe this is progressive, but no, it’s Elton John, paragon of virtue in a quintessentially neutral London accent reeling off a list of purchases to match his voracious moods.

Is this serious or a parody of prog? Or just good fun? Or back to self? (watch the video).

Or the “Follower”?  Rock, synthesizer frills and twirls, but it’s the influencer in this on-line world who becomes the dark knight. Is this for real, or a parody of everything about the modern age?  Was progressive ever about progress? Is it dark and deep, or just a good old laugh? Too many questions.

‘Future biting, millions spiting’ got me. I get it : it’s a fucking laugh, how could you take a line like that seriously? So, fuck it, enjoy the laugh, the mishmash of genres, the sheer audacity of Steven Wilson to make good music. The future might bite, but the bark is sure to be worse, so let’s discount the unease, as “Count of Unease” melancholically returns to the beginning, and back to the future, and maybe, just maybe, we are progressing after all. To not caring about prog. I would die for this if I could but is this song an enumeration of anxiety, a royal title, or just another trip? 

Be careful with that axe, Eugene, and how you prepare your stimulants. Be careful, because with The Future Bites, I’m popping, not amyl nitrate, but just popping, not progressing, just popping, with prog pop, and mild ecstasy, because Steven Wilson’s new album is not a doom gloomer, it’s just a lot of fun.



Written By: Roger Bowie Roger Bowie has been collecting music since 1964, starting with 45 rpm singles, and then building an LP and CD collection from 1970. 1.8 per week since then. Not a vast collection, but eclectic and occasionally obscure. Roger is a big Americana fan, and regularly attends AmericanaFest in Nashville, held every September. Also, he once played golf with Alice Cooper...