TIM BOWNESS – Stupid Things That Mean The World (2015)
TIM BOWNESS will forever be best known for No-Man, his long-running – but now sadly dormant – collaboration with prog superstar Steven Wilson. Having said that, “Stupid Things That Mean the World“, his new solo album, demonstrates clearly and concisely that Bowness has more than enough songwriting nous to produce excellent records without his long-term collaborator.
Bowness has recorded the new material using well-established set of names: alongside members of the No-Man live band in Michael Bearpark, Andrew Brooker and Stephen Bennett who adds his writing skills to the project, Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord not only does the mix but adds smatterings of choice guitar.
Add to that musical contributions from Peter Hammill, Phil Manzanera, Pat Mastelotto, Anna Phoebe and David Rhodes (and shame on anyone who doesn’t instantly recognise at least one of those names) and it’s quite a mouth-watering line up.
With another Pineapple Thief in Steve Kitch involved in mastering the album, it’s almost like Tim has moved away from his old sparring partner Steven Wilson and found himself more Pineapple Thief than Porcupine Tree.
Not to say that “Stupid Things That Mean The World” is in anyway derivative, as it has all the hallmarks of the distinctive Bowness sound: melancholy-cum-art prog rock style.
Opening with the untypical heavier drum and guitar-based slow builder, ‘The Great Electric Teenage Dream’, which name checks the album title and sets a lyrical bar for the record as it builds towards a hypnotic and overpowering climax.
Moving swiftly from its vaguely ominous opening, it soon provides a pleasing early rush of intensity, with Bowness seemingly railing against the death of the musicianship dream, pointed references to the digitisation of music included.
That first track is followed by two extremely pretty, slightly fragile tracks in the shape of an old No-Man excerpt, ‘Sing to Me’, and ‘Where You’ve Always Been’, both of which reference an old English folk tradition with their acoustic guitars and pastoral melodies.
The title track, meanwhile, hints at mid-period No-Man, with its funky bass line and choppy guitar parts being a world away from the gentle acoustic feel of the previous two tracks.
What’s particularly impressive by this point, four tracks in, is that Bowness is determined to keep making his solo albums reasonably diverse, rather than reining things in to a predictable pattern.
This is further emphasised by the excellent ‘Know That You Were Loved’, with its wonderful balance of hazy nostalgia and poignant reflection, and ‘Press Reset’, which, paradoxically sounding both oddly contemporary and strangely familiar, might be the closest thing Bowness has recorded with a radio orientation.
“Stupid Things That Mean the World” does a fine job of demonstrating that No-Man’s loudest and most experimental moments often came from Bowness as much as they did from Steven Wilson.
Tim Bowness solo has always been represented by that dreamy quality tinged with a hint of what they call pop sensibilities without being too sugary or overtly commercial. His signature sound is instantly recognisable as that distant wistful voice, whether captured against a simple acoustic guitar, swathes of keyboards or a more rock-based backing.
“Stupid Things That Mean the World” is another fine entry into the enviable discography of one of the most sadly underrated of British songwriters.
01 – The Great Electric Teenage Dream
02 – Sing To Me
03 – Where You’ve Always Been
04 – Stupid Things That Mean The World
05 – Know That You Were Loved
06 – Press Reset
07 – All These Escapes
08 – Everything You’re Not
09 – Everything But You
10 – Soft William
11 – At The End Of The Holiday
Tim Bowness – vocals, keyboards, guitar, programming
Peter Hammill – various instruments, vocals
Stephen Bennett – keyboards, programming, choir arrangement
Michael Bearpark – guitar, guitar solos
Colin Edwin – fretless bass, double bass
Pat Mastelotto – drums
Phil Manzanera – guitar, vocals, keyboards
Andrew Keeling – string arrangements
Anna Phoebe – violin
David Rhodes, Bruce Soord – guitar
Rhys Marsh – various instruments