Tim Bowness has over recent years released an excellent quartet of solo albums. He is also known for his vocal and co-writing contributions with no-man in collaboration with Steve Wilson, but here the focus must be on his solo work. His previous albums have given rise to a lot of deserved critical acclaim from reviewers and fans alike. So here we arrive at album number five, with a slight shift of style, which may be due to the recent release of the It Could Be Home album by his eighties band, Plenty, and his reconnection with Brian Hulse. This has given rise to a little more pop/rock sensibility in the music here, and it works so well.
Late Night Laments is a collection of nine songs over thirty-eight-plus minutes, and they’re atmospheric songs, with a more personal lyrical focus. The album was mixed by Steve Wilson, mastered by Calum Malcolm (The Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout) and co-produced by Tim with Brian Hulse. There’s some wonderfully interesting artwork by Jarrod Gosling and the CD version contains a bonus disc of five unreleased pieces, four from this album’s sessions and one from Flowers at the Scene featuring Peter Hammill and Adam Holtzman; I am unable to comment on these tracks as they are not included on my review download, but they do sound interesting.
The darker feel to the lyrics are at times in opposition to the music, which often has an uplifting nature, something that I feel Tim excels at, going a long way to making his songs compelling and interesting. The subject matter appears to be a meditations on generational divides, ideologically motivated violence, social exclusion and a popular children’s author’s decent into “madness”. Tim has made public his thoughts on each track and their meaning on his website, so I don’t think I will repeat that here, as having read it he expresses the songs meaning more eloquently than I could ever do. For example, Tim states “I imagined the album as a late night headphone listening experience and saw it as representing someone (locked in a small world of favoured “comfy chairs”, records, films and books) lost in a beautiful sensation, while hearing the sounds of the news murmuring away in the back ground”. So well put, I cannot compete with that. My focus, therefore, is simple: did I enjoy it? The answer is very much yes. There is a great deal here to enjoy, and it gives a great listening experience, with the lyrics that reveal so much.
The opening Northern Rain has a moody but slightly upbeat melody with clear direction, the song focusing on someones partner seen slowly descending into the fog of dementia, the reflections of their happy life together and the coming to terms with their powerlessness and eventual demise. Powerful stuff, and so well written, it certainly gets the point across. I spent the last 17 years of my 40 year nursing career looking after the elderly mentally infirm so this track speaks to me, Tim’s lyrics capture the feelings associated with this illness perfectly in perhaps this one sample:
I used to love those kind eyes, I used to love.
You left me, a laughter close to crying,
The world we used dying and maybe that’s ok.”
These words, in my opinion, sum up what carers often feel when watching a loved ones descent into this illness, and their acceptance of it. Well done Tim, you have captured this perfectly.
This example demonstrates Tim’s great ability to take an often difficult subject matter and present something notable and enjoyable which gets the listener thinking. There are also some notable guest contributions on the album, namely Kavus Torabi’s lovely guitar solo on I’m Better Now and Richard Barbieri’s keyboard solos on two tracks. Coupled with Tim’s unique voice on We Caught the Light, he treats us to his playing of the ukulele, which is added to the song in an almost delicate, and most effective way.
All songs have Tim’s trademark sound, and there are influences in there, but not obviously so. Indeed, there are moments on The Hitman Who Missed which gives us a sound reminiscent of 10cc. The Last Getaway’s subject matter is the children’s author Harry Horse’s descent into mental ill health, the song having a lovely clear piano start to accompany Tim’s vocal as he sings, “Dear child, life adventures drove me wild”, as the song develops a light, soulful and hauntingly beautiful melody. Throughout the album, you are able to enjoy and digest the music and lyrics on a consistent level, such is the standard of the song writing here.
This release is an album of thoughtful and beautifully crafted music that is another step forward for Tim, showing that his skill as a singer/songwriter is on top form, a natural progression in his musical catalogue. A collection of lush atmospheric songs with an intimate lyric feel, but an album that is an accessible listen with lots of depth to get absorbed in.
01. Northern Rain (4:49)
02. I’m Better Now (3:52)
03. Darkline (3:57)
04. We Caught the Light (3:56)
05. The Hitman Who Missed (3:21)
06. Never A Place (4:41)
07. The Last Getaway (4:55)
08. Hidden Life (5:05)
09. One Last Call (4:15)
Total Time – 38:50
Tim Bowness – Vocals, Backing Vocals, Synths (tracks 2 & 9), Samples (tracks 2 & 9), Ukulele (track 4), FX (tracks 2 & 6)
Brian Hulse – Synths, Keyboards, Guitars, Programmed Drums, Backing Vocals (track 4)
Tom Atherton – Vibraphone (tracks 1,4,5,6 & 9)
Richard Barbieri – Synths & Synth Solos (tracks 3 & 7)
Evan Carson – Drums & Percussion (tracks 1 & 4)
Colin Edwin – Double Bass (tracks 4,5 & 9)
Alistair Murphy – Dianatron (track 5)
Kavus Torabi – Glissando Guitar & Guitar Solo (track 2), Backing Vocals (track 4)
Melanie Woods – Backing Vocals (tracks 1,2 & 4)
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Format: Ltd.Ed. 2CD digipak, Gatefold LP (inc. CD), Download
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 28th August 2020