Oh dear! How come I didn’t ever write about Steven Wilson, the album “The Raven That Refused To Sind (And Other Stories)” or one of my favourite songs, Drive Home?!
Simple as that: I didn’t listen to it for a long time. I’m not quite sure if it was the first progrock-album I ever got as a present but at least it was one of the very first of that genre.
I remember that I had huge difficulties listenning for the first times .. and that it needed about a year of maybe just a half until I realised what an enormous treasure I was holding in my hands. I am still not a fan of the whole album, especially Luminol isn’t my sort of song. But there are these two tunes that shift the album from “ok” to “how was I able to live without it?!”: Drive Home and the title song, The Raven That Refused To Sing. Today I want to write about Drive Home but first I have to explain what the music of Steven Wilson means to me.
Most unsuprisingly, his tunes are melancholy and often concern loss, yearning and trauma. Most noteable about his music is that he doesn’t see himself as a musician rather than a builder who puts known elements together to new songs. And if you listen closely to his work, you will notice that he really doesn’t use the most complex melodies. His excellence lies in his ability of engineering the sound and mixing the elements in a perfect way. Originally being in the band Porcupine Tree that split up because the members had different opinions on how the music should go on, Wilson started his solo-career with undeniable similarity to his former band. Of course he found his own way and one can hear a difference between a song of Steven Wilson and Porcupine Tree, especially with increasing time of his solo career. In case of the “The Raven…” album he moved foreward but wasn’t too experimental with new elements that distinguishes him from Porcupine Tree. After all his music isn’t so “hard” than the one he made with his former colleagues. Lets go back to Drive Home, where he uses an invincible soundscape, story and melody that could not be written by Porcupine Tree.
So the song begins soft, telling the listener about some kind of accident and of the pain the protagonist is going through. The following suggestion is to make up with this accident, to be in piece with the past and be able to finally get away from the trauma, to “drive home”, whith which the song concludes.
Musically it’s mostly carried by Wilsons soft voice and an enormous guitar. The most famous part and the release from all the cruelty and suffering lies in the guitar solo. This is the point in which the song gains its full power, the turning point of the story (somehow the katharsis but not actually because the protagonist does only free himself from the burden of trauma).
The song cannot be best described without the music video by Owlhouse Studios: It tells us a story about the protagonist and his girlfriend who crash against a tree with their car. The driver can escape but his girlfriend dies within the burning vehicle. The protagonist never gets over it, sees her, writes letters to her. He has to use a wheelchair and lives alone at home. One night he sees the shadow of what he perceives as being his girlfriend running outside the door. He follows her and meets a shadow on a dock by a lake. The moment when he can clearly see the figure is the one in which he realises it is him, free from the wheelchair, wondering how he got on his feet. He stumbles, falls into the lake and drowns. At the bottom of the lake he coincidently finds an amulet which belonged to his girlfriend and was thrown in to the lake by him after the accident.
At this point he realises the truth, his trauma unfolds and his mind does no longer hide the fact, that she is long dead. But he is okay with it. He finally comes to the point where he accepts the reality. He reaches for air again and accepts the amulet, keeps it.
This is what the lyrics and the title are aiming at: “You need to clear away all the jetsam / in your brain / And face the truth / Well love can make amends / While the darkness / always ends / You’re still alone / So drive home (…) / Release all your guilt and grieve / Give up your pain /Hold up your head again”
The protagonist now can drive home. He is aware of the truth, of his trauma and the death of his beloved one. He can’t change it but on the other hand now is no longer forced to deny the facts and live in a illusory whole and good world.
He can now finally come back to reality, to find a way out of his horrible trip he was caught in for so many years. This is what freedom means, to be okay with the things happening and still being able to move on without being bound to something, especially not to the past. Personally, this catharsis is what I love most about the song: The fact that it doesn’t have a real happy end but mere some kind of realistic (and good) end. The fact that the protagonist can’t change what has happened but be ok with it and is able to move on.
As always, there is no comprehension without your very own experience, so here is the link to the song with the video:
Title photo taken from wikimedia. Made by user Stepph.