Steven Wilson, “Perfect Life” from Hand. Cannot. Erase (2015): One Track Mind

Share this:

Steven Wilson’s atmospheric “Perfect Life” features singer Katherine Jenkins, but not in the way you might expect. Rather than relaying the song’s melancholic portent in her typically soaring style, Jenkins simply recites this ephemeral tale of loss — setting the stage for a quietly involving chorus, when Wilson takes over the vocal. Never has the idea of perfection seemed quite so sad.

Framed within the larger context of Steven Wilson’s upcoming album, which uses the lonely death of Joyce Carol Vincent as a leaping off point, “Perfect Life” can’t help but hint at far more than it ever tells. Still, there are moments of ringing emotional detail within these lines.

Vincent, after all, died in her London apartment and somehow went unmissed for some three years, despite having scores of friends and family members. Wilson, with the subtlest of details, takes us into her solitary memories — and, despite the fictional nature of Hand. Cannot. Erase (due on March 2, 2015 via Kscope), he gives no small part of himself to it, as well.

“A lot of the experiences of this woman are actually my experiences of living in the city — my experiences of being a child,” Steven Wilson tells FaceCulture. “Some of the images are taken directly from my own childhood. ‘Perfect Life’ has a line in it where the character is talking in the first person, and this is a very poetic example, but she says: ‘Sometimes, we would go down to Blackbirds Moor in the twiight, and watch the barges on Grand Union.’ Now that might not mean anything to you, but Blackbirds Moor is a park near to where I grew up. The Grand Union is a canal that runs through my town, and barges were the boats that used to pass along the Grand Union canal. And I absolutely remember, as a child, going down to the park on a beautiful summer evening with my friend, and watching the barges go past on the canal. So, that is a very vivid, but real image from my childhood — and I gave it to my character.”

The results on “Perfect Life” are as gorgeous as they are enigmatic, and an involving reminder of the larger things at play here as Steven Wilson is joined by most of his confederates from 2013’s The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories).

He actually takes on the bulk of the instrumentation for “Perfect Life,” handling guitars and keyboards, a mellotron (as promised) and programming. The session was rounded out by long-time band members Nick Beggs on Chapman Stick and backing vocals, Adam Holzman on the Fender Rhodes, and Marco Minnemann on drums. Youssef Nassar directed the video, embedded above.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this:
Close