Stupid Things That Mean The World is the the third solo album from
no-man / Henry Fool singer Tim Bowness, and comes just over a year after his acclaimed Abandoned Dancehall Dreams release.
Stupid Things That Mean The World displays much more variety than its predecessor. A case in point is album opener The Great Electric Teenage Dream, a powerful, aggressive early 70s Bowie-esque piece driven by dirty guitars (courtesy of Bruce Soord and Michael Bearpark) and thumping drums from Sanguine Hum‘s Andrew Booker and Pat Mastelotto from King Crimson.
“Once a record, now an unpaid stream.”
Sing To Me evolved from a 20 year old previously unreleased no-man song, with Bowness adding new lyrics and an expanded arrangement. Hazy violin lines from Anna Phoebe flit amongst the performances delivered by the regular Bowness band of Stephen Bennett, Colin Edwin, Michael Bearpark and Andrew Booker.
The Celtic sounding twin-guitar solo (Thin Lizzy eat your heart out) from Michael Bearpark really lifts the end section of the song.
Where You’ve Always Been is one of the early surprises on the album. A gossamer light piece that evolves as the song progresses, its a perfect summer song. The sad lyrics with remarkably uplifting music (a co-write with Roxy Music‘s Phil Manzanera) work surprisingly well together, and the end result is a song that sounds unlike anything Bowness has released previously.
Some lovely piano work from Stephen Bennett and moving guitar lines from Manzanera transform Where You’ve Always Been into one of the highlights of the album.
“Quoting lines from books you borrowed – the way you’ve always been.”
Stupid Things That Mean The World sits well in the sequenced album – its always a good sign when an album is well-paced. The albums title track is a naggingly addictive song, underpinned by Run Like Hell sounding echo guitar lines, and an outro section that reminds me a little of the quiet beauty of Virginia Astley.
Know That You Were Loved is one of the most moving songs Bowness has ever recorded, up there with no-man’s wherever there is light. Underpinned by soft backing vocals from David Rhodes (Kate Bush / Peter Gabriel) and guitar lines from Bruce Soord and Rhys Marsh, the simple arrangement reminds me of a lot of the mid 70s and the work of David Crosby (particularly If I Could Only Remember My Name…) and the sonic experimentation of bands like 10cc.
It’s my favourite Bowness vocal performance on the album, with lyrics that are very personal and touching.
The frailty of Know That You Were Loved is quickly washed away with the most brutal track on the album, Press Reset. Harking back to when no-man were flirting with the industrial, beat-driven material of Wild Opera, Press Reset takes the power of no-man’s Bleed and feeds it into my favourite track on the album.
“Tanked-up boys and weekend girls
Lying wasted on the pavement.”
A song dripping with isolation and rejection, the restraint shown by the musicians throughout the first half of the song ends abruptly and the remaining section will probably blow your speakers (and your mind) with its unbridled power.
All These Escapes drops the tempo back down, and revisits a song originally written back in the late 1980s. Sounding like it could have been included on a late 80s Peter Gabriel album, All These Escapes does not overstay its welcome and fades out as the beatless Everything You’re Not creeps in.
By far the most unusual song on the album, violins and proggy synth lines interweave the backing vocals provided by Bowness & Peter Hammill. An added bonus is the inclusion of brass in the arrangement. Whilst not exactly the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, think more Peter Skellern and the mighty You’re A Lady. Listening to Everything You’re Not fuels my desire to hear more colliery brass in my pop music. Make it so, Northern musicians, make it so.
Everything But You is a lyricless, short companion piece with some lively Jethro Tull-like flutes from Andrew Keeling and violins from Charlotte Dowding.
Soft William is a short but sweet song you might remember (in much simpler form) from the days of Tim’s Myspace page. Ah, digital nostalgia. Before you know it, the final track on the album is here.
At The End Of The Holiday is a sepia tinged shanty that ends the album perfectly. Soft acoustic guitars and gentle drums give the feel of a Martha’s Harbour for the 21st Century.
“She feels the breeze caress her skin, Wishes she wasn’t quite so thin.”
One of the saddest songs in the Bowness canon, with an almost baroque arrangement in some sections, At The End Of The Holiday is a fitting end to the most ambitious release to date from Tim Bowness.
Buy Stupid Things That Mean The World from Burning Shed – Burning Shed pre-orders come with an exclusive signed postcard and – on release day – a link to a flac download of a 5.1 mix of the album by Bruce Soord.
Buy Stupid Things That Mean The World from Amazon UK
Stupid Things That Mean The World album artwork by Jarrod Gosling
Tim Bowness photographs by Charlotte Kinson