Review Summary: "I believed in whatever you believed in, stupid things that mean the world"
Tim Bowness, one of the most expressive voices in contemporary music returns with the second chapter of his brand new, solo sonic experiments. Released roughly a year after Abandoned Dancehall Dreams
, Stupid Things That Mean The World
can be seen as a direct follow-up that not only manages to consolidate his strengths, but also takes a step forward towards new territories. I was anxious to hear the results as the man never fails to create something interesting and gripping (at the very least).
Although a sequel, STTMTW
contrasts its predecessor in both the atmosphere it creates, as well as the emotions it evokes. Since the production is substantially airier this time around, it manages to unfold quicker than ADD
, creating shorter, but profound tunes. We get cuts like the title track or 'Where You've Always Been' whose playful, sustained rhythms bring forth quite an unusual, uplifting side of Bowness we rarely get to see. However, this is only a part of a darker record that often feels tensed and frustrated. The characters he portrays have missed several opportunities over the years, feel overwhelmed by life, ugly or devoid of any feelings that once made them feel alive. The most representative numbers are 'The Great Electric Teenage Dream' and 'Press Reset'. There's anger in the powerful guitars and regret in the nostalgic piano lines, whereas the cold, industrial touch present especially on the latter, magnifies this uneasy vibe. Tim also delivers his parts with a poignant tone, boosting the tracks with some of his heaviest hitting moments.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have two of the most gorgeous, subdued tracks on the album, 'Sing To Me' and 'Know That You Were Loved' lying in between the aforementioned rockers. They are a lot more comfortable for older fans as each shares similarities with previous helmed projects. 'Sing To Me' stemmed from a 20-year old No-Man demo, entitled 'Best Boy Electric', recorded somewhere in the middle of Wild Opera
's recording sessions. Tim reworked it and created a lovely ballad with eerie guitar leads, warm bass and echoed piano lines. Sound-wise, it reminisces 'Smiler at 50' from ADD
. 'Know That You Were Loved' is a mostly acoustic affair that brings to mind the low-key No-Man album, Together We're Stranger
. Occasional lap steel touches and guitar solos embellish the stripped foundation, yet his voice is once more the focal point.
There is a dark appeal to Stupid Things That Mean The World
that some might or might not be fond of. Abandoned Dancehall Dreams
was a melancholic yet grandiose affair that was easier to wrap your head around. This time, the often bare bones instrumentals push Tim's vocal melodies in front, usually focusing more on the lyrical content than the music itself. Moreover, helped by some elite members of the British nu-prog/art rock wave such as Bruce Soord of Pineapple Thief (who also produced the album), Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree, long time collaborators Stephen Bennet, Phil Manzanera and Pat Mastelotto of King Crimson, Michael Bearpark or the classical composer Andrew Keeling (among others), Bowness has managed to avoid repetition and create a piece of work that truly complements its prequel. This is a beautiful, cohesive album that stirs so many emotions and speaks for itself. It might not be as immediate or as catchy as ADD
, but does the most important thing: paving new grounds.