Tim Bowness is perhaps best known as co-writer and vocalist of No-Man, however there’s a great deal more to the self-proclaimed fan of progressive rock and movie soundtracks. He has recorded with, written with, and produced acclaimed artists way too numerous to mention and his new album, coming hot on the heels of last year’s ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ is a name-dropper’s dream.
‘Stupid Things That Mean The World’ arrives on 20 July, and sees Tim joined by Stephen Bennett, Michael Bearpark and Andrew Booker (all three from the live line-up of No-Man) and Colin Edwin from Porcupine Tree. But it doesn’t end there; Peter Hammill (best known for Van der Graaf Generator), Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music), Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) and David Rhodes (Peter Gabriel) also pop in to help Tim along.
Many of Tim’s influences are proudly on show, although none particularly dominate or overpower, with the opening track, ‘The Great Electric Teenage Dream’ and the closing track ‘At the End of the Holiday’ being particularly strong, while both are stubbornly atypical of the album as a whole. The former is driven by a dominant Pat Mastelotto beat and a little reminiscent of Thomas Dolby’s early solo work. The latter is a more orchestral number, with slightly clunky lyrics in places, and a soaring wonderful progressive rock keyboard solo, time-shifted directly from some unspecified period in 1972.
Elsewhere there’s some fantastic bass on ‘All These Escapes’ and on ‘Soft William’, which, at only one minute forty-two seconds is way too short. And ‘Press Reset’, starts unremarkably before opening up at the halfway point into a pulsating soundtrack to an unmade film that makes you wish that Tim and his assembled cohorts would grab the urge to rock on a more frequent basis.
One or two of the tracks are a little weaker, for example ‘Everything You’re Not’, with its ill-advised synthesised pan-pipe break provides one slight misfire. And ‘Know That You Were Loved’, which feels very much like the album’s emotional centre point, is marred by another couple of examples of clumsy wordplay; “crumbling cupcakes of love” and mention of “truculent dinners” not proving entirely in keeping with the songs deep reaching sentiment. To be fair to Tim, this criticism is partly due both to the quality of production and the clarity of his voice; being able to hear every single word on an album can prove to be a curse as well as a blessing.
The Great Electric Teenage Dream by Tim Bowness
And it’s true that in some places the album feels a touch too considered and possibly slightly too safe, with the exception of ‘The Great Electric Teenage Dream’ and the second half of ‘Press Reset’ there’s not a great feeling of risk or danger, however the quality of musicianship is faultless (as you would expect) and it’s more than matched by a particularly delicate, loving production style.
As a result this will be an album best appreciated on a decent music system; you can take my word for it that ‘Stupid Things That Mean The World’ sounds at least twice the album on good quality headphones that it does on a car stereo.
Reviewer: Neil Pace