191179-steven-wilson-hand-cannot-erase

Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. is easily the strongest of Wilson's solo output in terms of cohesive narrative and dynamic song structure.
Steven Wilson
Hand. Cannot. Erase.
K-Scope
2015-03-03

Brice Ezell: Watching Steven Wilson nail the encore of his 2013 “homecoming show” at London’s Royal Albert Hall, it was hard to shake the feeling that tour and the album it was promoting, The Raven that Refused to Sing (and other stories), represented a special culmination of all he had worked toward at that point. Despite evading the “prog” label during his many years as the frontman of Porcupine Tree, The Raven remains to this day his proggiest release yet. (During the Royal Albert Hall concert, he refers to prog as “the p-word”.) Deeply indebted to the sound of the ’70’s progressive rock that Wilson has long revered (King Crimson, Genesis, and Yes), the album captures Wilson’s most intricate songwriting to date. Although his solo career kicked off with the experimental Insurgentes, he has worked his way back into the prog he’s long been associated with, both as a musician and a producer.

Even though I reviewed The Raven favorably for PopMatters upon its release, over time I’ve found myself less keen on the music. While it’s undeniably refreshing to hear Wilson’s instrumental chops in such high form, I find that he is at his best when he indulges in his dark, experimental side. Give me the brooding soundscapes of Insurgentes (“Abandoner”, “Get All You Deserve”) over the extended jams that occupy The Raven anyday.

Moreover, the latter album is also structurally uninteresting. The balance of long song/short song is embedded in classic prog’s DNA (see the tracklisting of many Rush albums), and for that reason The Raven plays pretty predictably. The assertive opening track “Luminol” is followed by the reflective ballad “Drive Home”. Energetic jam “The Holy Drinker” is capped off by the so-so pop of “The Pin Drop”. The Raven is simultaneously the most compositionally sophisticated of Wilson’s solo records and the most predictable.

For that reason, I find the cryptically titled Hand. Cannot. Erase. to be a refreshing step up for this already accomplished auteur. The lengthier, proggier tracks haven’t been completely done away with – in fact, “Home Invasion/Regret #9” might be one of his best yet – but there’s also a greater diversity in song structures. He’s even written one of his catchiest pop numbers in years in the form of the title cut.

However, I do know that you, Jordan, are a big fan of The Raven; when we wrote the Best Prog of 2013 for this very site, you voted it as your top pick for the year. So what do you think about Hand. Cannot. Erase as it relates to the overall arc of Wilson’s solo career thus far?

Jordan Blum: Well, let me start by saying that although I seem to enjoy The Raven far more than you do, Brice (I even declared it “a work of genius” when I reviewed it for Examiner), I can see exactly where you’re coming from. As much as I adore the colorful and dynamic frenzy of the [largely] instrumental opener, “Luminol” (which, for my money, is superior to many of the ‘70s tracks that inspired it), the melodic transitions and compositional evolution of “The Watchmaker”, and the unequivocally gorgeous yet heartbreaking title track, I can see how you find The Raven to be a bit too much of a transparent homage to certain prog pioneers.

Nevertheless, Wilson pulls it off as no other modern visionary could, infusing his unique aural trademarks and melancholic themes into cherished templates that were laid out decades ago. In other words, it’s perfected emulation mixed with some of his most gripping songwriting, and that’s quite alright with me. In addition, The Raven is far more consistent and confident than its two predecessors (the first of which you still rank as his best solo statement, while I much prefer everything that followed it), and I would argue that it’s even slightly more satisfying overall than Hand. Cannot. Erase. But only just so; despite being a bit inaccessible at first, Wilson’s newest opus ultimately stands as one of his most cohesive, unique, touching, diverse, and fascinating records yet.

Before launching into a discussion of the disc, it’s worth exploring how Hand. Cannot. Erase. is Wilson’s first true narrative album. Sure, he’s explored concepts, themes, and melodic reprisals on past achievements (such as The Raven, Fear of a Blank Planet, In Absentia, and the significantly underappreciated The Incident), but Hand. Cannot. Erase. marks the first time he’s dedicated an entire collection to a single storyline and protagonist. In fact, the Hand. Cannot. Erase. project also includes many photos of, and diary entries from, the main character (so the music itself only makes up part of the fictional world).

Wilson was inspired to write the work after seeing Dreams of a Life, a 2011 drama-documentary about the life and death of Joyce Carol Vincent, a thirty-eight year old Londoner who effectively erased herself from the world at the turn of the century. Having cut ties with her friends, family, and everyone else in the city, she lived isolated and socially invisible until her death (in her flat) in December 2003. However, her body wasn’t discovered until the start of 2006, and it was precisely these tragic yet unfathomable circumstances that intrigued Wilson. How could a person who lives in one of the largest Metropolitan areas in the world effectively disappear from public view? Likewise, how could someone be so inconsequential that no one notices he or she is gone for over two years? Feeling a connection to Vincent’s story, as well as a need to explore the dangers of our obsession with technology and social media, Wilson decided to turn his curiosities and social commentaries into a concept album.

Taking all of that into context and consideration, Brice, I’m interested to know your thoughts on the album. Let’s take it from the beginning.

BE: Well, things kick off quite ostentatiously with the lengthy opening instrumental salvo of “First Regret” and “Three Years Older”. Much like the speedy staccato bass blasts at the beginning of The Raven’s opening number “Luminol” and the dramatic chords that commence Porcupine Tree’s The Incident, Wilson likes to make a vivacious kickoff statement, which the chords of “Three Years Older” certainly do. (On a somewhat more technical note, the song also highlights the Dsus2 to B flat chord transition, which can be heard throughout the entirety of Wilson’s discography.) Between the synths and electric organs, the prog flourishes are definitely in full force, but they’re noticeably less overt with respects to referencing ‘70s prog than The Raven. That’s a trend that carries throughout the whole record, in fact, which I find to be a breath of fresh air given the overwhelming specificity of sound on The Raven.

But while “Three Years Older” is an impressive opener that runs at an appropriately long ten minutes, I’m far more impressed by the third track, “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” In the past I’ve lamented the slow deterioration of the sharp pop/rock music of Blackfield, Wilson’s project with Israeli singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen, but from the sound of this cut Wilson hasn’t lost his ability to craft a stellar pop tune. Admittedly, as far as pop songs go, it’s an atypical one; one would be hard pressed to think of a Billboard top ten song in 9/4. In the context of both Wilson’s music and Hand. Cannot. Erase. as a whole, however, it fits quite brilliantly.

Less succesful, although still interesting within the context of the album overall, is “Perfect Life”, an electronic tune (Wilson cites Boards of Canada as an influence) that opens with a monologue about two friends that have lost touch and closes with a simple, melancholy refrain: “We have got / We have got a perfect life”. Whereas “Hand. Cannot. Erase” stands just fine on its own, “Perfect Life” really only makes sense as a part of the story that the record tells. The case of Joyce Carol Vincent is a fascinating one, and it’s clearly affected Wilson, as he does some of his sharpest lyric here. Whereas The Raven’s Edgar Allen Poe worship was, like its music, a bit unsubtle, his exploration of social isolation in the modern age — something he did to an amazing effect on Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet (2007) — is incredibly well done.

Although I am taken by the title track more than any other on Hand. Cannot. Erase., as is the case with Wilson usually it’ll be the longer pieces that garner the most attention. To that end, it’s worth highlighting the stunning centerpiece “Routine”, which captures how the mundane can really start to wear on one’s life in the big city. Joined by a young boy’s choir and Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb, Wilson gives a fine vocal performance that’s made all the more dynamic by the contrast of the aforementioned two singers. “Routine”’s last lines are particularly beautiful in their fatalistic sorrow: “Don’t ever let go / Try to let go”.

JB: I have to agree that the opening duo is reminiscent of “Luminol”, both in terms of its dynamic prog ferocity and its vocal intermissions. However, I find the melodies of “Three Years Older” to be vastly superior to those of “Luminol” (although I adore them too), and I really love how the atmospheric, ghostly ambience of “First Regret” bleeds into “3 Years Older”. It hints at the record’s thematic penchant for solitude, loss, and uncertainty very well, suggesting the emotions and sentiments that Wilson will eventually explore.

It’s interesting that you bring up the structure of the pieces, Brice, as Wilson has noted that aspects of these songs repeat later in the album. When we last spoke (for an upcoming piece on Popmatters), for example, he told me that bits of “First Regret” can be heard again near the end of the album (in both “Regret #9” and “Happy Returns”). Actually, the only other time he’s done this is with The Incident, but it’s far more effective and clever here. Also, I see what you mean about the vintage embellishments being less explicit and in-your-face than on The Raven; however, I don’t necessarily think this piece is better or worse because of it. It’s just different. Lyrically, the song stands out as a charmingly poetic introduction to the main character, as it suggests her dissociative upbringing and need for isolation.

Moving on, I don’t think there’s a single listener who won’t find the title track to be one of Wilson’s most accessible and hypnotic songs ever, which is truly saying something. It’s true that Blackfield’s music hasn’t fared as well since Wilson became less involved (to be fair, though, Geffen did pen many of their initial classics too), yet “Hand. Cannot. Erase”. would surely fit well on one of the first two Blackfield collections. It’s that infectious.

Thematically, it uses its central character to explore a notion Wilson has long since felt: that “when you’re of a certain age, you’re supposed to couple off. Pair off with someone and be together. There has to be this element of togetherness. It’s what society and her family expects… [but] she really doesn’t feel like she’s enjoying it. She feels like she can’t wait to be back on her own again”. As anyone who’s been in a relationship knows, there’s a certain poignancy in Wilson’s declarations here, such as when he sings, “Trust means that we don’t have to be together every day” and “Feeling guilty if we sometimes want to be alone”. Although it’s relatively simple lyrically and musically, it’s nonetheless one of the finest examples thus far of Wilson’s brilliant pop songwriting sensibilities.

When I hear “Perfect Life”, I immediately think of the industrial experimentation of Insurgentes. I really like the wise/melancholic narration of Katherine Jenkins too, as well as her connection to the beginning of the album (she says, “She was three years older than me…” at one point). I concede that it’s not an especially strong song taken out of context, but it’s still undeniably affective (especially the way it builds, with a specific sequence sounding after she says, “To watch the barges on Grand Union in the twilight” that really hits the heartstrings). Wilson takes over in the second half, and while he only repeats the title continuously, the tenderness and regret in his voice makes it haunting. That, coupled with its In Absentia level of industrial beauty, allows it to stand as one of the record’s most unique and touching pieces.

On a side note, Wilson says that he composed and recorded roughly “95%” of “Perfect Life” on his own. It’s also worth mentioning that the chords of “Perfect Life” are repeated on “Happy Returns”, and that Wilson sees it as one of his most successful “nostalgia” songs, in that it involves “looking back at something very fondly, with happiness and joy, but it’s also looking back and knowing that you could never recapture that moment again”.

As for “Routine”, it begins in a standard way, with Wilson’s lamentations combining with sorrowful piano chords. His melody evolves atypically, though, as does the song itself once it moves from its straightforward opening to the more sparse and ominous production when Tibet comes in. Of course, Wilson’s social commentary is apt here, as we’re all more or less stuck in daily [and mundane] routines. As for the lone choirboy, he’s used sparingly yet effectively, much like what Kate Bush did on her fourth opus, The Dreaming (which directly inspired Wilson to use a choirboy here).

The instrumental breaks, with their lovely acoustic guitar arpeggios seguing into controlled catastrophe evoke bits of his last two solo outings, while Tibet eventually steals the show (albeit with Wilson’s ghostly harmonies) by the end, belting out her proclamations with gorgeous attitude. It actually reminds me of the equally effective use of Ché Aimee Dorval in Devin Townsend’s latest project, Casualties of Cool. And you couldn’t be more correct, Brice, about the chilling serenity of the tracks final words. Combined with another stellar arpeggio (that slows down alongside their voices), it’s a powerful ending.

As elegant, intense, and meaningful as this first half is, Hand. Cannot. Erase. only gets more destructive, tranquil, and sorrowful as it concludes. Wouldn’t you agree, Brice?

Splash image of Steven Wilson by Lasse Hoile.

The Many Kinds of Death in the Modern City

BE: There is definitely a deliberate and successful build as the record goes on. This is is a distinct improvement over all three of his solo LPs; whereas Insurgentes and Grace for Drowning are more scattershot in their genre experimentation and structure, and The Raven operates on a clear short/long contrast, Hand. Cannot. Erase.’s story is matched by the pacing and length of the tracks as the music goes on. The two lengthy tunes here, “Three Years Older” and “Ancestral”, are perfectly situated in the context of the story, and are not excess for excesses sake.

That being said, especially in the latter half of this LP, for all of the compositional prowess that’s here I can’t help but feel Wilson is repeating certain tropes of his. Take the otherwise excellent “Home Invasion”: the track is more or less the same kind of jam that “No Twilight in the Courts of the Sun” is for Insurgentes and “The Holy Drinker” is for The Raven. There’s a central heavy riff that anchors the progressive jazz jamming that is undeniably sharp; like “The Holy Drinker”, “Home Invasion” features a healthy dose of electric organ. Ultimately my qualms with this song are few, but it does feel more familiar than most of the other material on Hand. Cannot. Erase. The sameness is also present in the regrettable vocal filler in the penultimate tune, “Happy Returns”; the “doo doos” and “la las” are more distracting than anything else. (This trick was similarly mis-executed on the Wilson-penned Blackfield number “Waving”.)

For all of the great music on this recording, ultimately everything points directly to “Ancestral”, the final ten-plus minute epic here, which brings the story to a powerful denouement. Both Wilson and Tayeb’s vocals are on point, delivering emotionally crushing lines with aplomb: “You can shut the door / But you can’t ignore / The crawl of your decline!” The track is even capped off with a headbanger of a metal riff, of the kind that we haven’t heard out of Wilson since Porcupine Tree’s pre-hiatus LP The Incident.

For all of the intense build, however, Hand. Cannot. Erase. ultimately ends with a question mark rather than a full stop. Aside from the vocal filler, which could have been done without, the acoustic guitar-led “Happy Returns” proves to be an appropriate comedown from the grandiosity of “Ancestral”. In this song, the album’s protagonist comes back to visit a family member after years of isolation in the city, only to find out that things aren’t the same — perhaps they never will be. The track concludes with the lines, “But I’m feeling kind of drowsy now / So I’ll finish this tomorrow”.

If one is to extrapolate the Joyce Carol Vincent story to “Happy Returns”, that drowsiness could well mean death. To my reading, though, it need not necessarily be a physical death, although that certainly is possible. Nevertheless, it’s just as plausible that as a result of becoming alienated from everyone she knew, the narrator has suffered a death of identity, becoming stripped of all of her former friendships, associations, and places that she could call home. The ambiguity with which Wilson concludes the story is appropriate, I think, as a literal retelling of the Vincent case would have been far less artistically compelling than the ending depicted in “Happy Returns”. The main point of Hand. Cannot. Erase., it seems to me, is that modern life in the city can kill us in a hundred different ways.

What do you think, Jordan? Is the drowsiness at the end of “Happy Returns” a death at all?

JB: Hand. Cannot. Erase. definitely feels like Wilson’s most interconnected solo work, as well as his most assertive. As you say, the instrumentation and duration of the tracks suit the storytelling, so their relative complexity (or simplicity) feels justified and necessary in the context of the tale.

To your point, I can definitely see how “Home Invasion” feels a bit too similar to previous pieces; after all, we hear the same sort of simultaneous riffing/drumming at its start that Wilson began using on In Absentia over a decade ago, if not earlier. Likewise, the atmospheric coating, combined with the dissonant guitar solos and nihilistic nature of his verse, is quite familiar, yet I still think he pulls it off better than just about any of his peers. For instance, the psychedelic chorus, while also fairly unsurprising, still offers a significant contrast to the darkness that surrounds it, which is nice. Lyrically, it helps move the story forward too. What really strikes me here is the sound of Adam Holzman’s keys, which sound sinister and retro, evoking the brilliance of Opeth’s latest homage, Pale Communion. Lastly, the two solos at the end are phenomenal, if also expected. Of course, the way it fades into “Regret #9” (which recalls the piano chords from “First Regret”) is an added bonus.

Along those lines, “Transience” feels eerily similar to the title track of Wilson’s underrated collaboration with Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), 2012’s Storm Corrosion. Both pieces find him singing softly and mournfully over warm acoustic guitar arpeggios. Like much of Wilson’s work, it’s sort of a natural contradiction, as its sonic beauty conflicts with its thematic menace. Aside from providing a short but sweet moment of comfort for listeners, the track is best thought of as a prelude into “Ancestral”, the album’s longest piece.

Aside from eliciting the programmed syncopation and ominous vocal personality that made Insurgentes such a strong independent statement, “Ancestral” also starts off with some lovely strings and flute. What truly shines are the prophetic lyrics; in addition to those you mention, Brice, I find the following verses especially chilling when taken in context: “Come back if you want to / And remember who you are / ‘Cause there’s nothing here for you my dear / And everything must pass / When the world doesn’t want you / It will never tell you why”. It’s here that Wilson is effectively speaking as the character’s psyche, encouraging her to hide away and perhaps even leave this world entirely. He screams these words with desperation and panic, and matched with the elegant yet intense arrangement, it culminates in stressed splendor. Lastly, the hyper finale, with its speedy riffs, frantic percussion, and cusp of resolve, inarguably suggests the way “Circle of Manias” moves into “I Drive the Hearse” at the end of The Incident. In fact, I still occasionally expect to hear him sing the start of that song once this one ends.

Although I can see where you’re coming from with the vocables of “Happy Returns”, I still adore this piece, both as its own song and as an ending to the journey. The calmness of it provides the perfect divergence from the madness that precedes it. While it’s not as overtly mournful as the “The Raven that Refused to Sing”, it’s arguably just as touching and tragic. Wilson (as the character) reflects on her state of mind and present situation, noting that she wishes she kept in contact with her family more. Musically, there’s a sublime frailty to the way his guitar melts into the piano; likewise, the fact that the percussion waits until the perfect moment to kick in is fantastic.

Furthermore, I absolutely see those final lines (which are among the most prophetic and heartbreaking words Wilson has ever written) as a direct reflection on what happened to Vincent. I mean, she died in her bed while she was wrapping presents in her apartment, and I think that’s specifically what happens to this character. In other words, she’ll never wake up to “finish this tomorrow”, and it’s exactly this formula (straightforward words connoting an overbearing amount of emotional weight) that makes it ingenious. Truth be told, Wilson probably hasn’t achieved this level of devastating simplicity since “Heartattack in a Layby” all those years ago.

To add to that, the actual final chapter of the LP, “Ascendant Here On…”, further insinuates her death both in its heavenly music (a blend of angelic harmonies and slow piano chords) and title. It even includes the rainfall and childlike voices from “First Regret”, brining the album full circle and perhaps even suggesting that the entire album was a flashback in the character’s mind as she was dying. Okay, so I won’t go that far, but it is a thought.

On the other hand, though, Wilson confirms your take, Brice, by saying that the album “ends in midair”, adding that this finish is meant to represent “the idea of someone who is isolated and alone in the city reaching out to her family for possibly the first time in years. Of course, the implication in the way that the song ends is that the letter was never completed or sent, so it’s a kind of what-could-have-been moment… that letter is trying to reach out to family and friends, yet it never does. It’s really the crux of the whole album.”

Now that we’ve discussed the album bit by bit, Brice, and agreed to disagree several times, what is your overall take on Hand. Cannot. Erase?

BE: Overall, I find the LP to be strongest in his solo career with respects to concept and story arc. Even though The Raven has a clear concept, its short/long song dynamic is less compelling than the natural flow of Hand. Cannot. Erase. The story itself is also deeply powerful; even now, I find it hard to believe that Joyce Carol Vincent managed to erase herself such that she was dead for almost three years and no one noticed. The intensity of the music on this record makes it clear that Wilson is still shocked by that fact, too. That he latched onto it is also unsurprising, given that he’s crafted stellar explorations of cultural isolation in the past, namely with Porcupine Tree’s 2007 masterpiece Fear of a Blank Planet.

Overall, however, I’m still drawn to Insurgentes above all of the other three. Although that affair is stylistically all over the place in a way cohesive recordings like Hand. Cannot. Erase. and The Raven are, there’s something alluring in his reckless abandon on that album that I think best represents him as an artist. Nevertheless, if we’re talking about Wilson in relation to his ability to piece together a meticulous concept, Hand. Cannot. Erase. is a definite winner. As someone who was ultimately left in want after The Raven, I find this to be a compelling return from this most revered of progressive rock figures.

In large part I think the success of the record is owed to how naturally it weaves the varied threads of both his solo work and his other projects. The electronic elements present on Insurgentes crop up here right alongside the proggy jazz of The Raven and the darkness of Grace for Drowning. The brief appearance of the metal influence that so dominated Porcupine Tree in the ‘00s is also a nice bit of seasoning at the end of “Ancestral”. All in all, the range of song structures and sounds on Hand. Cannot. Erase. makes this his best solo outing since Insurgentes.

In concluding my remarks, I think what I’m most left with is the slight disagreement you and I have about the ending in “Happy Returns”. In one sense, Jordan, you and I don’t really disagree on the ending; we both think she dies. What kind of death she suffers, of course, is up for debate. That’s one of the many superlative things about Hand. Cannot. Erase: not only is the tale on its own dramatic, but the ending is also ripe for interpretation, ambiguous without undermining all that came before it. This is particularly necessary given the things Wilson is pointing out in our flawed modern life. We should keep coming back to stories like these, as they rarely leave entirely closed endings. I know for myself, at least, that every time I return to this album I’ll continue to ask the questions about life in the 21st century.

I’ll leave it to you to have the last word about this fine recording.

JB: Hand. Cannot. Erase. is easily Wilson’s strongest effort in terms of conveying a cohesive story with character development and a logical progression. I think he definitely saw a bit of himself in Vincent’s circumstances and demise too, as he’s spoken at length about his own sense of loneliness and isolation over the years. To that end, he does a masterful job of fusing narrative, singing, instrumentation, and various other effects/techniques into an astoundingly gripping and emotional experience here. The record may not pack the immediate sonic punch of The Raven, but it’s arguably an even more nuanced and mysterious affair that reveals its most clever and endearing moments only after several close listenings.

Along the same lines, his exploration of technological disconnection was more obvious on Fear of a Blank Planet, but I actually prefer the more subtle and poetic approach on this record (at least in that regard). As for Insurgentes, I definitely see why you still favor it most, Brice, as it does seem to capture him at his most, well, creatively independent. As if often the case with debut solo works, Insurgentes represented the cathartic release of ambitions and stylistic choices that had been bottled up for years because they may not have worked with the other projects. It wouldn’t have fit as a Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, or No-Man record (nor would any of its successors), and in that way Insurgentes marked a great leap of artistic faith and freedom for Wilson. However, I still prefer its three follow-ups.

As you say, a large part of what makes Hand. Cannot. Erase so important is the fact that it feels like a culmination of Wilson’s other projects (as well as a vibrant new chapter, of course). Sure, the vintage technical lunacy ofThe Raven was foreshadowed on Grace for Drowning (on tracks like “Remainder the Black Dog” and “Raider II”), but I’d argue that none of his other albums feel as much like a symbolic celebration of how diverse Wilson is. It may be clichéd to say, but he is truly an artist who explores distinctly different avenues not only from project to project, but from album to album (Porcupine Tree alone has changed more than just about any other modern band).Hand. Cannot. Erase., with its sonic similarities to later Porcupine Tree, early Blackfield, classic No-Man, and even Storm Corrosion, feels like a survey of Wilson’s career, and it’s precisely this combination of past approaches that results in something familiar yet fresh.

All in all, I’d rank Hand. Cannot. Erase. as slightly inferior to The Raven, which is still my favorite of his solo outings. It feels a lot less disjointed than Grace for Drowning and more accessible and warm than Insurgentes. However, there are also a few spots that don’t pull me in as much as others, whereas I adore just about every second of The Raven. For instance, “Luminol” remains the best (predominantly) instrumental he’s ever written, and “The Raven that Refused to Sing” is significantly more stunning, poetic, and touching than anything on Hand. Cannot. Erase. (although “Happy Returns” comes very close).

On that note, I completely see what you mean about the ambiguity of “Happy Returns”, Brice. My interpretation may be a bit unoriginal and cheap (the physical death of the protagonist at the end of a tale is certainly nothing new), but I think it gives the album a deeper sense of meaning and continuity. During the entire journey, we want her to be happy and reconnect her relationships, so the fact that she gets this close to it yet never sends that letter (or those gifts) makes her story so sympathetic and sad.

Just as you will return to the record to reflect on life in the modern world, I’ll use it to reflect on the importance of life, love, family, and substantial inclusion in society. Above all of its social commentary and personal confessions, though, the album is still bursting with catchy melodies and invigorating arrangements. Devotees would expect nothing less, and with Hand. Cannot. Erase., Wilson has crafted another [flawed] masterpiece that won’t soon be forgotten.

Brice’s rating: 8 out of 10

Jordan’s rating: 8.5 out of 10

Splash image of Steven Wilson by Lasse Hoile.

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