Hand. Cannot. Erase. review by Steven Wilson

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  • Released: Feb 24, 2015
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.2 (76 votes)
Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase.
2

Sound — 9
Steven Wilson is probably best known as the creative force behind Porcupine Tree, but he has also been involved with the bands Karma, No-Man, Incredible Expanding Mindf--k, Bass Communion, Blackfield, Storm Corrosion, and his solo work. "Hand. Cannot. Erase" is the fourth studio album released by Steven Wilson as a solo effort, and it contains all the musicians he worked with on his previous release (including Guthrie Govan), in addition to some female vocalists who act as the main character of the concept. There are 11 tracks on the album, and it clocks in at 66 minutes. According to Steven Wilson, this is a concept album about a woman who died in her apartment and no one realized she was missing for 3 years, loosely based on the true story of Joyce Carol Vincent, that Steven Wilson learned about from the film "Dreams of a Life."

The album opens up with the track "First Regret," which opens with the sounds of children playing and remains instrumental, primarily keyboards and mellotron. "3 Years Older" has a little bit of a Who vibe, similar to some moments from "Tommy," but maybe just because I think of this concept album in a similar way to the Who's album. Steven provides vocals on "3 Years Older," which is over 10 minutes and has long and varied instrumental passages, as well. Next is the title track, "Hand. Cannot. Erase.," which explores the emotional well-being of the main character. The guitar on the track was provided by Dave Gregory, best known for his work with his band, XTC. "Perfect Life" has spoken word lyrics provided by Katherine Jenkins talking about a girl she knew as a sister in her adolescence. "Routine" has vocals contributed by Ninet Tayeb and Leo Blair. The track is a little over 9 minutes and has some interesting guitar work, as well, which is contributed by Guthrie Govan.

"Home Invasion" starts out with a very suspenseful instrumental opening which would fit a horror movie scene with the "monster" creeping up on a victim, but with some heavier instrumentation coming in. It quickly goes into the realm of '70s prog, in sound, with a mellotron and a killer bass line. "Regret #9" has some really intense things going on with keyboard and mellotron contributed by Steven Wilson, and some interesting guitar going on with Guthrie, as well. "Transience" is really carried by finger-picked guitar and Steven's vocals. "Ancestral" is the longest track on the album, at over 13 minutes, with Steven providing mellotron, vocals and hammered dulcimer on this track. There is also flute and saxophone provided by Theo Travis on this track. "Happy Returns" opens with the sounds of a storm, and repeats the musical theme from "First Regret." The rest of the track is pretty much carried by acoustic guitar (which builds up with other instrumentation) and Steven's vocals. The album closes out with the instrumental track, "Ascend Here On...," which also uses the sounds of children playing (much like "First Regret").

Lyrics — 9
Steven Wilson provides lead vocals for most of the album, but there are also several guest vocalists. The list includes Katherine Jenkins with some spoken word parts, Ninet Tayeb who actually voices the main character, and Leo Blair on the track "Routine." The vocals are varied enough to keep the album interesting, though the musical performance on the album is definitely the bigger draw. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from "3 Years Older": "You cross the schoolyard with your head held down/ And walk the streets under the breaking cloud/ With a hundred futures cascading out/ It's complicated/ You think of love as just a memory/ A fog that smothers you, its hard to breathe/ But when you're on your own that's when you're free/ You're three years older/ And you'll always be now/ I can feel you more than you really know/ I will love you more than I'll ever show/ There was a time when someone seemed to care/ A tourist in your bed you left him there/ You found a simple life with no-one to share/ It's not complicated." I really enjoy a good concept album, and this one does it right, allowing enough of the concept to come through in the lyrics for your imagination to fill in the details during the instrumental parts of the album.

Overall Impression — 9
I love the sound of '70s progressive rock, and while Steven Wilson doesn't sound like he stepped out of the '70s, you can tell he's inspired by the genre and the time period. This is definitely a solid album, and extremely accessible for a progressive concept album. I enjoyed Guthrie's contributions on guitar quite a bit, though it was Steven's mellotron that keeps me listening. My favorite tracks from the album would probably be "3 Years Older," "Routine," and "Home Invasion." This is definitely the best progressive release I've heard so far in 2015.

47 comments sorted by best / new / date

    jddthomas
    Ancestral.
    Mahoru
    Yup, Guthrie's solo gives me goosebumps every single time. The album as a whole is fantastic, but that track in particular is without a doubt one of Wilson's best works to date.
    azrael667
    We've got our first solo of the year contestant right there.
    Machineflame
    You're a little right and probably wrong about the first part, because by this time of year, Buckethead has probably already produced a few contestant. Must have after 18 albums (according to wikipedia).
    little_boy
    I find the solo on Regret #9 to be much tastier. The solo on Ancestral might have a bit more feel to it though.
    SPeety
    The first time I heard the Ancestral part in the trailer, building up to Guthrie's solo, I knew that this would be my favourite part of the upcoming album. And yes - including 'Routine' it really is. Although I just can't understand why SW put Ninet's voice out of the mix that much... I loved how she sang the part and this was actually one of the main reasons it gave me goosebumps. (In addition to Guthrie of course)
    MattFrancis
    Agreed! He Should of let Ninet sing the lead for Ancestral's chorus like in the teaser. As great a singer Wilson is, it didnt have the same power as it did in the trailer!
    Machineflame
    Truly Brilliant. Love the story, the atmosphere and the execution is flawless. It reaches deep inside you and doesn't let go. I could go on but I won't... *Sheds a single tear in a ocean of gold whilst the breeze dances with his hair*
    Lateralus91
    Even though I admit the "Raven" was a little more to my gusto, this still is a fantastic album. Countless musical references, a fascinating, yet tragic story, beautiful Wilson-esque melodies woven together into an album for the ages. To me, this sounds like the sheer essence of Steven Wilson's body of work.
    Crunge92
    The instrumental bit at the beginning of "First Regret/3 Years Older" and the female vox during "Routine" are the best things I've heard all year....probably even since his last album.
    Spenner2810
    Its a beautiful piece of work. I had the pleasure of seeing it live on Saturday. I've been following his work for years and he's a perfectionist on stage too....no improvisation or drum solos or any of that stuff - just pure, cerebral music that also reaches right inside you and reverberates in your soul. He's a true compositional genius. I was worried if he might have peaked with 'Raven' but this moves of in a different direction but on the same level.
    flexiblemile
    I'm going to see him in montreal soon. Did he play anything other than this album? Any porcupine tree stuff?
    HeretiK538
    When he toured Raven, he opened the show with a solo acoustic version of Trains, and closed the show with Radioactive Toy. I imagine he's changed things up since then though
    Akkeli
    The intro with Trains was excellent. I wonder what he's got in sleeve this time.
    travislausch
    SW has quite a good track record with releasing perfect solo albums. I'm not in any rush to hear him go back to Porcupine Tree.
    yuyinyu
    This is the album of the Decade. It just gets stuck in my head and I can't stop listening to it, LOL!
    Akkeli
    One of my numerous favorite moments of this album is in Happy Returns when Steven goes "yeeea!" in the background just before the guitar solo.
    edgeyyz
    Excellent album. On one hand I'm always a bit disappointed that there hasn't been a Porcupine Tree album for several years, but on the other I simply can't complain because Steven keeps on putting out this great solo material.
    Megadeth2011
    Honestly, a lot of this album is really PT oriented. It really reminds me of Fear of a Blank Planet in a lot of places
    ayreon77
    steven wilson says hes not going to go back to porcupine tree, so don,t hole your hopes up of a new PT cd
    little_boy
    Amazing album that lived up to my already high expectations. I'm not surprised, it's Steven Wilson we're talking about after all. Pretty consistent, great song arrangement, doesn't sound like a rehash of the previews albums, it's quite the contrary actually. It sounds very fresh and innovative. Dead on solos, both on timing and execution (Guthrie ****ing Govan, that's all you need). One of my betting horses for the best of the year. But still doesn't clearly surpass Raven though. It is very different, so personal taste should play a big part in naming the better (and in my case, my money goes to Raven). It is still an album that is definitely on par with Wilson's past albums, while having its very own identity. I'm not mad that Porcupine Tree are on hiatus as long as works like these are being made. Worthless to say, it definitely is worth a listen or two even to those not familiar with Wilson's career.
    Daedwing
    [i]Hand. Cannot. Erase[i] is another strong piece of work in SW's catalog of work. However, this is an absolutely terrible review. It's like the writer was really struggling to make up the word count, so included a load of lyrics! I wouldn't mind, but the UG review for SW's previous album, [i]The Raven that Refused to Sing... , was exactly the same, featuring all the lyrics from [i]The Holy Drinker ! UG is a great website and a fantastic facility for fans of guitar-based music. But surely we could get some well-written, constructive reviews. Not ones that just verbally fellate the artists. It's just frustrating, when an intelligent piece of work has a review that seems like it was written by a child that left it too late make a good effort with their homework. Which, I guess it could have been...
    Triklino
    Agreed. An absolute stellar album, and this review does it zero justice. Not even a paragraph for Routine? My god, that song is gorgeous and heartbreaking and anybody who isn't a teenager can relate, at least a LITTLE BIT, to the ideas in that song. Happy Returns is quite possibly the most beautiful piece of music Steven has written and deserves ESSAYS, not one or two lines. Despite these petty gripes, at least he didn't give it an 8 or something.
    dewitt
    I'm convinced that people decide their ratings and reviews before they ever even hear the thing.
    dewitt
    I like the way people can't say anything negative about something in the reviews section. There's no need to be objective when we can just jerk each other off and say 10/10
    Ristifer29
    That's because the negative comments are usually ridiculous and offer little to no actual criticism of the work. It's always, "Oh, another solo album from the guy who was doing solo work in another band in the first place? Nah" or "Weak..." or something else along those lines. I don't really have any problem with critique, but people need to speak up and say, "I just don't really like it because of this... and he didn't really do any of..." or something like that. Some people offer zero actual criticism of a work, so they'll get downvoted pretty quickly. Even people who like it will do the same thing, but you still see positive comments that praise certain instrumental passages or vocal deliveries. The negative comments are usually a lot less thought out, and so they'll be picked apart.
    Machineflame
    I agree completely. But some album (like this one in my opinion) do have some weak points/flaws/etc but it's isn't really relevant cases because the experience in of itself is Incredible. In short, the good totally overshadows the bad. ¸ I also have the (very personal) opinion that trying to create something "perfect" is boring and it's more about inspiration, freedom and doing something organic. Steven does just that and so who am I to criticize the lack of *insert awesome thing not in album* If I think the album is perfect the way it is?
    Redfinton22
    It's the first of his solo works I've actually listened to- quite different than Porcupine Tree, which I adore. I like it so far, but I have a feeling I will come to absolutely love it in the coming months of listening. This one's a grower
    flezem
    I love the album! There will be some Guitar Pro Tabs soon Maybe some chords too.
    ayreon77
    holy shit mixed reviews for this CD, to the best album ever, too this is shit and boring, ha ha well have to go listen to it and make my own mind up.
    ayreon77
    not sure why someones giving me -2 i have not said s.h.i.t, just saying what everyone else has said about it.but after listening to it i like it, there is a few good tracks that just instantly grow on you straight away, the rest will come with more listening Regret #9 this is excellent
    travislausch
    You're a fan of Ayreon? You pretty much deserve an upvote just for that. And also for being correct.
    rolandroi
    So far his only weak album.
    twiggy3634
    Give it time. It takes a few listens before it hits you and when it does, it's like a ton of bricks. It might not be the masterpiece that is Raven, but it's still an amazing piece of work and a really cool concept.
    Akkeli
    I think it sounds fresh. Insurgentes is sort of dark and claustrophobic sounding, Raven is very vintage sounding, Hand. Cannot. Erase sounds very fresh. Not better or worse. I like all of them.
    Anjohl
    Lol, a solo album by a guy from a band that he his solo work in everything but name. Lolz.
    keno444
    This album is fantastic! I was actually worried at first that SW would repeat the same jazzy, proggy sound from his previous album. I love that this album is a combination of SW's last album and Porcupine Tree. If you like this album, be sure to check out my music blog: http://bit.ly/1FRwmjy
    zbest
    Havent listened to it just yet but based on the earlier sound clips I cant imagine it even comes close to the Raven. Beyond a Masterpiece!
    symmetryerased
    Sorry Top 10 of the year poll at December, this one already cemented its place on top. I remembered the same exact chills and awe when I first listened TRTRTS and It was the same feeling I felt with this one too.