Written from a female perspective, “Hand. Cannot. Erase” is a concept album, inspired by the tragic story of Joyce Vincent. Wilson is quoted as saying that the story of the record is “about a woman growing up, who goes to live in the city, very isolated, and she disappears one day and no one notices. But there’s more to it than that. Now, what’s really interesting about this story (of Joyce Vincent) is that your initial reaction when you hear a story like that is, ‘Ah, little old bag lady that no one notices, no one cares about.’ She wasn’t. She was young, she was popular, she was attractive, she had many friends, she had family, but for whatever reason, nobody missed her for three years.”
Anyone familiar with Wilson’s past work with Porcupine Tree, or his subsequent solo work will have an idea of what to expect with this record. This is not background music. It’s not easy listening. This is an album that challenges you. It needs and deserves to have your full attention. And with that attention you will discover what a rich and engaging album it is.
There are some beautiful melodies and harmonies to be found here. Some haunting passages, such as the wonderful “Perfect Life”. Many musical twists and turns, just as you should expect from a musician who is a major figure in progressive music these days.
There is excellence throughout. The lyrics, the complex compositions, the musical performances, the production – in fact everything about this record is top-notch.
There are some echoes of the heavier end of the Porcupine Tree catalogue, such as “Fear Of A Blank Planet” to be heard, lyrically too, in the brilliantly observed “Home Invasion / Regret #9”:
“Download sex and download God
Download the funds to meet the cost
Download a dream home and a wife
Download the ocean and the sky
Download love and download war
Download the shit you didn’t want
Download the things that make you mad
Download the life you wish you had
Another day on Earth has passed me by
But I have lost all faith in what’s outside
They only are the stars across the sky
And the wreckage of the night”
– Steven Wilson
The top tracks, for me, are “First Regret / 3 Years Older”, “Perfect Life”, “Routine”, “Home Invasion / Regret #9” and the awesome thirteen-plus minute progressive rock masterpiece “Ancestral” – which is the vast majority of the album. Simply put, there is not a bad track to be had here. An excellent listen from start to finish.
“Hand. Cannot. Erase” tracklist:
1. First Regret / 2. 3 Years Older / 3. Hand Cannot Erase / 4. Perfect Life / 5. Routine / 6. Home Invasion / 7. Regret #9 / 8. Transience / 9. Ancestral / 10. Happy Returns / 11. Ascendant Her On…