Review Summary: At his most eclectic yet...
This decade, Tim Bowness managed to successfully introduce himself to a new audience through his strong solo efforts. Besides composing the tracks, he also stepped up to conduct a wide array of veteran collaborators, in order to bring his vision to life. The artist’s trademark croon and dreamy textures are always focal points, but the overall mood shape shifts constantly around him. After sinking deeper into prog territory with the bittersweet and mostly laid back adventure, Lost in the Ghost Light
, he ultimately decided to shake things around. Thus, the latest affair, Flowers at the Scene
ended up as his most experimental so far.
While in theory Tim’s output should fall in in the “dad rock” department, he made sure there are modern twists inserted into songs. As a result, the eclectic mix of styles became more interesting to say at the very least. The core members who produced Flowers at the Scene
are Steven Wilson, Brian Hulse and Bowness himself. Inevitably, there are obvious traces to No-Man’s music, especially from the moody late ‘90s-early ‘00s. Of course, having Peter Hammill (Van der Graaf Generator), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Jim Matheos (Fates Warning/OSI) or Andy Partridge (XTC) performing among other great musicians, definitely raised the quality level. Nevertheless, there are no expansive epics to be found here. The most immediate highlights are probably ‘I Go Deeper’, ‘Borderline’ & ‘Rainmark’. Each boasts its own vibe, but the attention to small details is lovely. The former’s twangy guitar is set against a loud drum pattern, whereas the lush chorus nicely contrasts it. The smooth leads are very fitting, while the lyrics depict a tragic cry for help from a hospitalized person whose medication gets the best of him. Meanwhile, ‘Borderline’ reminisces the softer parts of No-Man’s Returning Jesus
. The mournful melodies are augmented by gorgeous vocal harmonies and saxophone touches. In between them, ‘Rainmark’ feels like a summery ditty. The ukulele leads, alongside piano, trumpet and crystal clear bass lines create an uplifting setting, beautifully crushed, however, by the front man’s portrayal of the harsh reality.
Unsurprisingly, the rest of the album is just as strong and diverse. The title track is a lounge-tinged swing, complete with fretless bass, as well as faint piano chords. Tim’s pristine croon beautifully embellishes the subdued instrumental, only to follow it with his hardest hitting solo song, ‘It’s the World’. Using Matheos and Hulse’s riffs, Bowness adopts a punchier tone to create a more urgent tune, ending up closer in sound to what Steven Wilson accustomed us to. The results are great, even though it’s something you wouldn’t expect to hear from him. Moving further along, ‘Ghostlike’ builds on a percussion-heavy drum arrangement over which enigmatic guitar and synthesizer notes smoothly play. The song was reportedly written in the 1980s, but after some reworking, the guys also added a very fitting, jazzy trumpet solo. Moreover, the touching ‘The War on Me’ & ‘What Lies Here’ are two sparse, nostalgic ditties only Tim could pen. We can witness a deliberate layer stripping process, still, the late night atmosphere is in full effect. Whereas Lost in the Ghost Light
often welcomed grandiose arrangements, Flowers at the Scene
rarely goes in that direction.
Ultimately, Tim Bowness’ 5th studio album acts overall as a rather logical follow-up to Stupid Things that Mean the World
. The front man and his five-star collaborators managed to bring out the best from his songs as usual. Diversifying the listen was a bold yet benefiting decision, resulting in probably the easiest LP in his solo catalog to get into. Flowers at the Scene
features influences from various decades of pop, classic/art rock, jazz and successfully experiments to offer an eclectic and rewarding collection of stand-alone tracks.