NOTE: A bit rusty on reviewing and this one has been sitting on the shelf for awhile.
ARTIST: Steven Wilson
When the frontman of a popular band delves into solo work the general consensus is a bit mixed. Strangely enough when someone like Steven Wilson announced a solo project it was somewhat baffling. As the main songwriter for Porcupine Tree, his most popular and longest running of his musical endeavors, co-writer for Blackfield and head collaborator on a number of other small projects, one must wonder why it is necessary to open a new chapter and go solo, for lack of better wording. Insurgentes is somewhat of a strange beast in that for something that seems so unnecessary it serves as a vehicle through the many facets of what exactly makes many consider Wilson a musical genius.
While the opening notes breathe typical Wilson, Insurgentes slowly begins to morph into an intriguing album consisting of moments too crass for a Porcupine Tree, much akin to hanging out with your cool, crazy buddy who likes blowing things up but not wanting him anywhere near your children. One of the catalysts of this is the sporadic use of drone guitars placed precariously throughout the album readily to assault the listener. The funny part about them is they work, and they work damn well. The way theyíre introduced seems like Wilson is prepping the audience for later, as they are sudden, yet short lived in Abandoner and by the end of the album the idea of this foreign Ďnoiseí isnít so bothersome in the truly great usage of them. For instance Get All That You Deserve, while successfully building up due to masterful layering of simple piano and guitar lines, becomes so chaotic at the end as these guitars swallow everything with no remorse that by the time the listener arrives at Insurgentes itís almost like a Ďlight at the end of the tunnelí calm sets in. It is reminiscent of how The Downward Spiral flows into Hurt which definitely works to its advantage.
Working within the chaos, sans drone, No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun stands out as one of the stranger tracks on the album. Itís not that itís bad but the King Crimsonesque noodling that goes on for the first four minutes gets a bit excessive. In fact there is very little in the song that warrants its eight and a half minute runtime, cutting off some flow dead smack in the middle of the album. Maybe it isnít fair to criticize it for that specifically considering the arrangement of songs on the album but, coming off a serene six minute The Sky Moves Sideways Part 1 redux in Venero Para Las Hadas, the listener can get caught off guard. Probably the only redeeming positive factor for Twilight is some of the subtle piano work by Jordan Rudess, who also rounds out the aforementioned Venero Para Las Hadas quite well.
Passed the chaotic middle of the album, the rest is very hit or miss. Not that anything is completely off turning but the amount of standard fare is abundant. Significant Other hits some highs (literally) with Clodagh Simonds adding some operatic touches but little else aside from the simple, driving bass of Only Child really stands out. Rudess once again flashes some subtle pleasant lines in Twilight Coda, but as the title suggests its only really excess from earlier. Luckily this section of the album only lasts for around twelve minutes and if anything serves as a buildup to the final ten, which make the album all worth it.
If there is one thing that Steven Wilson consistently does, something that he needs to be commended for, is that for some strange reason he has a knack for creating the most gorgeous closing tracks for his albums. The title track is no exception. After a quick recovery from the audile assault of Get All That You Deserve, the forlorn piano lines create an absolutely docile atmosphere. Normally Wilsonís voice acts as an indifferent mechanism in a lot of his songs but for some reason on Insurgentes it comes to life, albeit an atypically depressed life, and delivers easily the most poetic lyrics on the album. The real gem, the whole moment the album is building to, is the point where the koto comes in about halfway through. Everyone has heard the instrument before but it doesnít seem to be used often enough. If anyone wants to make an argument against it, Insurgentes would be the counter.
As an album covering the wide spectrum of all that listeners have come to expect of Wilson, it gives us the rare opportunity to experience a compilation that isnít in itself any old material, relatively speaking. And while not completely palatable considering its minor flaws, it passes as an intriguing view of what is, was, and what could be concerning the mind that drives nearly all of the musical projects it is engaged with. Perhaps thatís the beauty of it.