Steven Wilson, the wunderkind of modern prog, can make your head spin with his creativity and output as producer, songwriter, bandleader and musical collaborator. Since breaking hearts of Porcupine Tree fans everywhere by going solo in 2008, Wilson has confounded expectations with, by turn, tales of gothic horror and concept records about alienation and the numbing inevitability of modern life. That the latter, 2015’s Hand. Cannot. Erase., contained the sublime pop notes of its title track might have hinted where he might go next, although that didn’t prevent his fans’ frontal lobes exploding when the glossy single Permanating oozed onto the airwaves.
Had even Wilson gone too far out there? Of course not, he’s far cannier than that. He has said that To The Bone, his fifth solo album, is his nod to the great prog/pop crossover albums such as Peter Gabriel’s So. To that end it is a preposterously good mix of prog tropes – Pink Floyd guitar tones, Rush’s juddering rhythms – and a clear-headed ear for melody and arrangement that makes the nine-minute Detonation fly by. Especially good too are the brisk Nowhere Now, the down-at-heel Refuge and the thrumming title track. To The Bone is arguably his best and most complete solo album yet.