BUY FOR COMFORT, BUY FOR KICKS BUY AND BUY UNTIL IT MAKES YOU SICKSteven Wilson
Steven Wilson is a weird cat: by turns wildly inventive, but always staying within a bizarrely specific musical lane, and traversing a Peter Gabriel trajectory. Exploring myriad lyrical topics, but still coming back to some well-trod lyrical ideas and motives. “Personal Shopper,” the lead single from his upcoming album The Future Bites, epitomizes these conflicting qualities in ways that are both inventive, familiar, but rich.
The music itself is dance/hip-hop only as interpreted by an audiophile prog-rocker exploring other genres. Despite a combo of sub-aural thumping synth-drum line, flickering jittery synth patterns and swells, and a lockstep common-time rhythm, the track never entirely reaches escape velocity of Wilson’s favorite musical foundations: Prog. Featuring your usual suspects of Acoustic and Electric Guitars and Nick Beggs on Bass, the single feels almost auteur in how well they track to his style. The vocal harmonies, the progression of the track, the peaks and the valleys are all classic Wilson to the point of tropeyness. The audio is so pristine it could not be confused for any other artist.
The lyrics, too, while prescient and well-timed, riff on ideas that Wilson has explored relentlessly. The endless list of things you can and must buy to exist as a relevant commodity in this late-stage capitalist hellscape evoke the downloaded reality of “Home Invasion” off Hand. Cannot. Erase. The desire to consume meaninglessly and shallowly could be off Fear of a Blank Planet or To The Bone. The style is new, but the lyrics do not transcend Wilson’s interests so well explored.
That said. I love the Elton John bit. Sir Elton’s aged-like-oak deadpan fits perfectly with the style and milieu of the song and creates a compelling inflection point for the track.
Oddly, though, John’s contribution reminds me of another song. Wilson has stated that Personal Shopper inspired this song, a 2016 Kristen Stewart Film. The track itself, though, reminds me of American Psycho: The Musical. A song in which Patrick Bateman describes his morning routine and decadent lifestyle over throbbing techno beats and jittering synths. It is a striking coincidence and one that further enriches the message.
The cumulative effect of this track is one of overfamiliarity and enjoyment despite it. Wilson’s re-treads and definition are not a mark of his failure to come up with something new. Instead, they are a mark of a well-defined artist, stepping into new aural territories, and bending those territories to their will. It is a self-actualized sound that breeds appreciation, rather than contempt even if it is a bit too familiar.
And I would be lying if I said that hook wasn’t absolutely killer.
Check out the song below, and as Wilson himself says in the song: BUY THE BOX SET AND THE KIND OF STUFF YOU’VE BOUGHT BEFORE A MILLION TIMES.
The Future Bites comes out next year.
Steven Wilson – synthesisers/samplers, acoustic and electric guitars, percussion, vocals David Kosten – programming Elton John – voice Rotem Wilson – voice Nick Beggs – bass guitar Michael Spearman – drums Wendy Harriott, Bobbie Gordon, Crystal Williams – vocals Fyfe Dangerfield – vocals
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