PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Tim Bowness: Stupid Things That Mean the World

So few of Bowness’s peers show the same level of artistic integrity and fearlessness, not to mention boundless creativity and precise expressionism.


Tim Bowness

Stupid Things That Mean the World

Label: InsideOut
US Release Date: 2015-07-24
Amazon
iTunes

In the realm of art rock, few voices are as delicate, emotive, and classy as that of English singer/songwriter Tim Bowness. Perhaps best known as one-half of both No-Man (alongside Steven Wilson) and Henry Fool (alongside Stephen Bennett), Bowness has also appeared as a guest on works by Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree), OSI, and Nosound. Naturally, he’s also an accomplish solo artist whose two previous efforts, My Hotel Year (2004) and Abandoned Dancehall Dreams (2014), further demonstrated how capable he is at spearheading projects. Fortunately, his third effort, Stupid Things That Mean the World, earns its place alongside them, as it continues Bowness’ expertise at crafting and performing intriguing, vibrant, and heartfelt pieces with earnest grace and captivating arrangements.

Expectedly, Stupid Things that Mean the World continues the boisterous and eclectic approach that made its predecessor (which definitely showcased a Kate Bush influence) so fascinating. In fact, Bowness calls it “something of a bolder and more dynamic extension of Abandoned Dancehall Dreams. It’s a logical step forward with some surprises, I hope.” Produced by genre icon Bruce Soord (the Pineapple Thief), the record also features Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator), Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music), Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), and Anna Phoebe (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), among others. In addition, composer Andrew Keeling once again provides string arrangements. In this way, it truly feels like a companion piece to its precursor, and it may even be slightly superior.

The sequence starts with “The Great Electric Teenage Dream”, a sonic gem whose opening piano notes and tense percussion complement Bowness’s slightly antagonistic sentiments perfectly. Behind his fragile yet hostile tone and poetic verses (including “Ghosts of passion stalk your bed / The boasts of youth still crowd your head”), distorted guitar, subtle bass, hand claps, and various other effects build to aggressive, hypnotic majesty. It’s a fine example of what makes Bowness’s work so unique and exciting, not to mention a stellar way to start things off.

In contrast, “Sing to Me”, with its forlorn lyrics, light vocals, and simple piano chords, feels like a lost piece by Neverending White Lights. Halfway through, a cascade of strings, guitar, and rhythms are piled on, culminating in a powerful and beautiful crescendo as the track fades away. It’s stunning, as is the contrast between the funky electronic elements and regal orchestration (including acoustic guitar arpeggios) in the title track. It truly feels like two different aesthetics that shouldn’t go together, but they do wonderfully, exemplifying how incredibly eclectic Stupid Things that Mean the World is at times.

The sparse, lo-fi assembly of “Press Reset” helps set it apart, as does its partially industrial timbres and staggering dynamic shifts. Likewise, the ethereal tranquility of “Everything You’re Not” makes it both calming and haunting, with backing harmonies and subtle reverse strings adding to the charming otherworldly essence. From there, the interlude “Everything But You” incorporates more ghostly dissonance (such as flutes and percussive echoes) to create one of the more adventurous and progressive moments on the disc. Next, the equally brief “Soft William” is another quiet, profound observation, with a piercing piano motif aiding Bowness’ affective tone.

“At the End of the Holiday” closes things with more classical elegance, as strings dance around each other in a gorgeous amalgam. Soon acoustic guitar chords interrupt and tribal percussion take over as more poised vocal counterpoints dominate. Once again, Bowness and company have produced a warm yet chilling aural environment, one that ultimately includes a bit of keyboards and dense atmosphere. Like much of the record, it’s serene but arresting and utterly unforgettable.

Stupid Things That Mean the World is another masterpiece in the discography of a true visionary. If that sounds hyperbolic, it’s only because so few of Bowness’ peers show the same level of artistic integrity and fearlessness, not to mention boundless creativity and precise expressionism. The impeccably bittersweet singing and lyricism keeps things grounded while each arrangement offers a sufficiently invigorating and idiosyncratic experience; together, these components meld into nearly a dozen gems as only he could create. If you’re already a fan of his work, you’ll adore this one too, and if not, it’s a fine way to start.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.