Monday, April 24, 2017

Tim Bowness, vocalist.

Tim Bowness, vocalist.

By Pete Clemons

There are vocalists who belt out the songs. And there are vocalists whose voice you hear uppermost and the music is incidental. And, for me, Tim Bowness is definitely in the latter category. 

Tim’s voice has warmth and richness to it. It carries an unusual breathiness. It is an instrument in itself. And his pronunciation can be quite exquisite. Dare I say that I find his voice is quite seductive in the way he draws you into his songs.

Amongst other releases Tim’s debut solo album, ‘My Hotel Year’ was released 2004. Contributing to the music was the likes of ambient music creator Roger Eno and Soft Machine’s bassist Hugh Hopper.

In 2009 Tim heavily contributed to an album titled ‘Talking with Strangers’ released by former Fairport Convention vocalist Judy Dyble.

But prior to all this Tim was a founding member, along with Steven Wilson, of the band No-Man. And No-Man are no strangers to Coventry.

On Saturday October 17 1992 No-Man, who by now also included Ben Coleman on violin, appeared at the Tic Toc club, latterly known as The Colosseum and more lately Kasbah. They had not long released a mini album / EP called ‘Lovesighs – An Entertainment’ that contained a track which immediately caught my attention ‘Days in the Trees’.

Unfortunately the band got slaughtered by a critic who happened to be present that night and in Tim’s own words during a recent conversation as he recalled the gig. ‘Sadly, the Coventry Tic Toc performance/experience wasn’t No-Man’s finest hour! ‘

As memorable as the gig though was the fact No-Man were accompanied on stage by JBK namely drummer Steve Jansen, fretless bass player Mick Karn and keyboard player Richard Barbieri who had all previously been in the band Japan.

And these musicians would go on to become collaborators in a wide variety of future projects. As for No-Man, well gigs performed during 1993 would prove to be their last together for the foreseeable future. 

However both Tim and Steven Wilson would continue, albeit in the shadow of Steven’s other emerging band Porcupine Tree, to release music as No-Man. And the music/lyrics were becoming more powerful in terms of subject matter.

As such it was an incredible surprise when, seemingly out of the blue during 2008, a gig was announced for Bush Hall in London. With a complete new band, this new version of No-Man put on a memorable performance. And it was saved for posterity by way of DVD package entitled ‘Mixtaped’ which was later released.

A few years later and yet another gig was announced, this time closer to home, at The Assembly Rooms in Leamington Spa during 2011. Again this performance was recorded, this time on CD, and made available under the title ‘Love and Endings’.

More recently and bringing things right up to date Tim Bowness has released a trio of wonderful studio albums. The first of these ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ was, as I understand, intended as a No-Man album, and released during 2014. The songs are very melancholic and reflective yet, at the same time, the music creates an uplifting atmosphere. It received some very positive reviews.

This was quickly followed up during 2015 by ‘Stupid Things That Mean the World’ another emotionally charged record, packed with nostalgia. Tim loves books and reads poetry and I suspect a lot of the imagery gained from that has surfaced in his songs.

For the third album of this trilogy Tim is attempting to look through the eyes of a classic rock artist who is in the twilight of his career and realises that time has simply moved on.

It is an incredible piece of work and rather that attempt to describe it all myself I have unashamedly dipped into Tim’s website and grabbed the following……

‘Lyrically, the album addresses how the era of streaming and ageing audiences affects creativity, how a life devoted to music impacts on real / family life, and how idealistic beginnings can become compromised by complacency and the fear of being replaced by younger, more vital artists’.

‘As mentioned on the Album Notes for Lost in the Ghost Light, the album revolves around the contemporary musings of Moonshot leader Jeff Harrison, though the events in the songs take place between 1967 and 2017. 

Jeff’s career was of interest to me because he came from my home town and was born on the same date as me in exactly the same place (Victoria Park Maternity Home in Warrington as I’m sure you’re eager to know). Admittedly, it was 16 years earlier, but how could I not be curious?

In the 1970s and 1980s, there were no local musicians of any note from the area, so (in both a good and a bad way) Jeff became something of a home town legend regularly played by DJs such as The Longford Lover.

I was fascinated by the fact that Jeff and Moonshot had been passionately idealistic during a musically revolutionary time (1967-1975), but seemed completely exhausted for a decade or more after. Where did the inspiration / drive go? How was all relevance and credibility lost? Why did Jeff make the career choices he did?

Although some critics still rate the band’s early albums (as do I), it’s fair to say that Moonshot’s reputation has been sullied by years of playing ‘golden oldies’ to diminishing audiences. Jeff’s 1980s penchant for wearing leopard skin outfits and his dismissive remarks about contemporary music (post Punk) have also had an impact on his critical standing. In recent years, Jeff’s vocal aversion to downloading and streaming have come across as bitter rather than insightful (I think he sometimes makes a good point, but feel there’s no moderation in the way he expresses his views). His current obsessions with President Putin t-shirts and the falling standards of rice pudding production are a little (endearingly?) odd by any standards’.

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