Published on 26th July 2015
Tim Bowness – Stupid Things That Mean The World
One of those stupid things that mean the world, probably to all of us over 40, is the aesthetic appreciation of the physical artefact associated with our listening pleasures, be it a gatefold LP cover, or, heavens forfend, a CD booklet. Not only that, but us older folk can still see the connect between paying money to an artist to enable him or her to carry on delighting us with simple yet evocative poetry such as this:
“Your great electric teenage dream
Once a record now an unpaid stream”
Those two lines succinctly sum up the politics of modern music consumption and come from The Great Electric Teenage Dream, a song that sees a middle aged protagonist agonising with his or her reminiscence of simpler times, and trying to cope with info overload in the (un)social media dominated modern world. All strung out to a building slow march that piles on the angst as the intensity rises.
More familiar Bowness melancholy is visited in the mournfully resigned Sing To Me She Said, uncredited and therefore probably synth-orientated horns adding that extra layer of fog around the heart. This is the kind of cinematic and sad soundscape that keyboard player and musical director Stephen Bennett does so well, topped off with some nice guitar work from Michael Bearpark.
The no-man/Henry Fool axis is completed by bass player Colin Edwin and drummer Andrew Booker, and collectively these guys can for the time being be regarded as “The Tim Bowness Band”, and this is the line-up that will be playing the imminent gigs promoting the album.
Where You’ve Always Been is mired in lyrical self-doubt and was co-written with Phil Manzanera, who contributes guitars, keyboards, and rather incongruously, a bass drum. A masterful joint enterprise of subtle contrast, the song manages to be both downbeat and jaunty at the same time as Tim relates the tale of a person who dares not make waves.
Faux-reggae permeates the verses of the title track, a song of trying too hard to please the unsympathetic ego on the other side of the relationship:
“A train-wreck soul
With changing goals
To sense the hurt”
I did not want to turn this into a track-by-track description, a personal bête-noir where reviews are concerned, but each and every song on this quality album exudes such class, it’s difficult to approach it any other way. Fans of Tim Bowness will know what to expect from the master of introspection, and it’s here in spades. Gorgeous ballads of love and regret rub shoulders with animated paeans to angst with an effortless panache as the album drifts along a murky canal of solitude and inner turmoil. Perhaps one of Tim’s darkest songs, Press Reset is lifted from the slough of despond by Colin Edwin’s driving bass line and some great uplifting post-punk rifferama from Bruce Soord.
Produced by Tim Bowness, the album was mixed by Bruce Soord, and the sound is simply gorgeous. No participants in the loudness wars were allowed anywhere near this sonic beauty. Another guest is Peter Hammill on Everything You’re Not, which has a short but very sweet synth solo from Stephen Bennett in there that will melt your heart. The song and the following short instrumental Everything But You were recorded in Hammill’s studio. The latter sounds very Hammill-like in construct, and apparently the two songs contained more of Hammill’s guitar than ended up on the album. (This snippet of info comes from the interview I carried out with Tim to tie in with this review, read more HERE.)
Tim’s art is all about the song. The instrumentation is important, but the song is always at the heart of the matter. The concluding The End Of The Holiday is a wonderful example of storytelling in song form, and though it is musically relatively straightforward, although of course highly atmospheric, the tale Tim tells is simply riveting, and of course as world-weary as you would expect. The only other artist I can think of who can weave such mystery around one’s soul simply by making incremental changes in the nuances of his voice is David Sylvian, and Tim Bowness deserves to be as widely known.
The bonus disc includes three remixes that each add their own nuances to the originals, and an intriguing snippet of an old no-man song written with Steven Wilson that became Sing To Me on the album proper.
Stupid Things That Mean The World is a contender for my Best Album of the Year, no question. “Is it prog?” you may ask. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn…
[You can read Roger’s interview with Tim Bowness HERE]
01. The Great Electric Teenage Dream (3:58)
02. Sing To Me (5:46)
03. Where You’ve Always Been (4:07)
04. Stupid Things That Mean The World (3:05)
05. Know That You Were Loved (6:44)
06. Press Reset (3:54)
07. All These Escapes (3:06)
08. Everything You’re Not (3:40)
09. Everything But You (1:12)
10. Soft William (1:40)
11. At The End Of The Holiday (4:58)
Total time – 42:14
~ Bonus disc:
01. Stupid Things That Mean The World (Nick Magnus mix) (3:11)
02. No-Man – Best Boy Electric (Sing To Me) (Steven Wilson mix) (1:58)
03. Know That You Were Loved (David Rhodes ‘electric’ version) (6:29)
04. I Still Miss You (UXB ‘Ambient’ mix) (6:13)
Total time – 17:50
Tim Bowness – Vocals, Backing Vocals
Stephen Bennett – Mellotron, Electric Piano, Keyboards, Moog Bass, Ebow Guitar Solo (4), Synths, Bass Synth
Michael Bearpark – Guitars
Colin Edwin – Bass, Ebow Bass
Andrew Booker – Drums, Percussion
Bruce Soord – Guitars (1,6), Backing Vocals, Percussion (1), Echo Guitars (4), Keyboards (6), Bass (6)
Pat Mastelotto – Drums (1)
Anna Phoebe – Violins (2,4)
Phil Manzanera – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass Drum (3)
Yaron Stavi – Double Bass, Bowed Bass (3)
Rhys Marsh – Pedal Steel Guitar, Additional Bass Synth (5), Guitar, Percussion, Electric Piano, Treatments (7)
David Rhodes – Backing Vocals (5)
Peter Hammill – Backing Vocals, Slide Guitar (8)
Andrew Keeling – String Arrangement (8,9,11), Flutes (9, 11), Acoustic Guitars (11)
Charlotte Dowding – Violin Ensemble (8,9,11)
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Catalogue#: IOMLTDCD 425
Year Of Release: 2015
InsideOut Music http://www.insideoutmusic.com/