Many of porcupine Tree member Steven Wilson’s mostly accurate, but increasingly tedious denunciations of inferior audio can be attributed to genuine motivations. He really does despise digital downloads and looks askance at those who would abuse their ears (and his art) by listening to them. You can usually ascertain if someone’s agenda is disingenuous by the amount of money they stand to make; in Wilson’s case, sniffily censuring consumers for their philistine proclivities is certainly not going to line his pockets. Bully for him—his browbeating-bordering-on-bullishness comes from an uncorrupted heart. Still, fans that are sufficiently removed from the sullied means of production and procurement Wilson whines about might hope he can avoid becoming known more for his crankiness than his musical proficiency.
It’s not that he’s a snob, these fans could claim; it’s that he really cares about music (his already notable street cred as a proponent of progressive rock was augmented by his recent undertaking to remaster—for the umpteenth time, it might be noted—the (brilliant) back catalog of King Crimson; suffice it to say, this is not a task the merely passionate producer assumes, this is an obsessive labor of love).
So what are we to make of Wilson’s latest jeremiad in Electronic Musician, “In The Mix: Everyone’s A Critic”? A knee-jerk analysis might be that the self-appointed physician who would ameliorate all that ails us might want to turn some of that attention inward. It is by now abundantly clear that Wilson would prefer that more people shared his opinion on how music is made, received, and enjoyed (an exalted regard of his own judgment includes Wilson in an artistic community that is neither exclusive nor in danger of diminishing its numbers). What is striking—and slightly unsettling—about his new piece is the implication that Wilson might prefer that a great many people have no opinions at all.