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Steven Wilson: Covers

Album Review

Essential and revealing reissue for Wilson fans.

After an even smaller limited edition 7” vinyl issue, these tracks slipped out of general availability.

Now collected here for the first time, this set of songs is available without the prohibitive price tag that inevitably accompanies such a fleeting, cult release.

The covers chosen by Wilson are unexpected and eclectic. At first one might wonder whether the choice of ABBA’s The Day Before You Came shows genuine devotion or a mischievous desire to confound expectations. That track in particular feels very wooden, though this criticism certainly does not apply as a rule. Thank U by Alanis Morissette is given an interesting and stripped-back reworking, with Wilson’s normally restrained voice breaking loose to hit stunning highs at the climax of the track. 

Similarly brilliant is an electronica-heavy take on The Cure’s classic A Forest, which presages to some extent the sound design and production aesthetic of his triumphant first solo album Insurgentes. The brace of tracks which was originally released as Cover Version IV is gorgeous; Momus’ The Guitar Lesson is atmospheric, achingly strange and intimate, while The Unquiet Grave, the only non-original double A-side, is an excellent take on a folk standard, which perhaps hints at the undercurrent that would continue through Grace For Drowning and _The Raven That Refused

To Sing_. Sign O’ The Times, originally by Prince, could scarcely be more different, but its fuzzed-out glam stomp lends a fantastic punch to the latter part of the record.

Of his own tracks, the highlights are towards the end of the collection, in the form of Well You’re Wrong and An End to End. They would perhaps be better with slightly more lush and textured instrumentation, reflecting their thematic depth, but it’s important to put these tracks in context. They were

a baby step for Wilson, his first song-focussed project outside of No Man and Porcupine Tree with anything approaching pop or melodic aspirations. These ambitions would be realised on his later solo records, but these tracks serve as

a fascinating insight into the first stages of that journey.

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