Tim Bowness's musical credentials are the stuff of prog dreams, especially his long running association with Steven Wilson as one half of the No-Man band. Other collaborations have been with Robert Fripp, Hugh Hopper, Peter Hamill and Roxy Music axeman Phil Manzanera. Somehow, between all the music-making, he finds time to co-run the popular Burning Shed online record label and store.
He has assembled a stellar cast of musical chums for Stupid Things That Mean The World, the follow-up to last year's much acclaimed Abandoned Dancehall Dreams (2014, see review). Bassist Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree and Bruce Soord, who also mixed the album, are in the line-up along with guests Hamill, Manzanera plus King Crimson's Pat Mastelotto (drums), violinist Anna Phoebe and Rhys Marsh on steel guitar and keyboards.
Bowness's unique selling point is the intimacy of his work. It is like having a conversation with an old friend or a former lover. There's almost an unconscious two way dialogue going on, his songs being shortish and often bitter sweet, his mellow, even toned voice one of the most distinctive in prog.
Each of the 11 songs here is a little vignette, an individual story, that begins with the huge intro to opener The Great Electric Teenage Dream, a doom-laden look at unfulfilled dreams with its big crashing drums and scuzzy guitar. He then plays balladeer on Sing To Me, its rich piano and muted brass giving it depth and feeling. There are pretty songs such as the acoustically-driven Where You've Always Been while there is a nostalgic wistful air to closing song At The End Of The Holiday. The poppy sounding title track features a pounding steady beat and an interesting middle section, laden with string effects while Press Reset has a strong techno vibe and a throaty bass. Bongo drum rhythms punctuate All These Escapes and the beautiful synths of Everything You're Not give it a dreamy, other worldly quality.
Changing tack again are the staccato flutes of quirky little instrumental Everything But You and Sweet William is a sweet, sad song with echoes of loneliness and fear.
Bowness is a master of his vocal and compositional craft and, though on the short side at just under 43 minutes, Stupid Things That Mean The World is charming and beautifully measured. It's the perfect collection to which to drift away on a lazy late summer afternoon.
**** Alison Henderson
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