Tim Bowness – Butterfly Mind: Album Review

Forty years of doing what he does, Tim Bowness continues his journey in an all encompassing set.

Release Date: 5th August 2022

Label: Inside Out Music

Format: digital / CD / LP

The solo Tim Bowness is back. It’s been almost two years since the last solo album – Late Night Laments – that followed his return to NoMan on 2019’s groove-tastic outing with his pal Steven Wilson. Bearing in mind how in The Album Years podcast, SW often refers to Mikael Akerfeldt as ‘my friend Mikael from Opeth‘, it should perhaps be ‘my friend Steven from Porcupine Tree’. Just about a year ago, there was Plenty’s Enough that delved back into the archive to ensure we were getting our fix and now we’re all especially ready after witnessing an intimate live set (the Prohibition Sessions) in Liverpool just a couple of months ago.

The almost expected guest list to die for is built around the core band of Plenty colleague Brian Hulse, the ubiquitous and splendidly stellar talent Nick Beggs and former Elbow drummer Richard Jupp. Guests aplenty pepper the album with cameos, notably ‘The Ham’ (that’s Peter Hammil if you not a follower of the Album Years) and Ian Anderson is becoming a Bowness regular too. Listen for several appearances for old No Man buddy Ben Coleman on violin (in particular adding an ethnicity to the closing Say Your Goodbyes Pt. 2) and see if you can pick up Big Big Train’s Greg Spawton on the magnificent bass pedals on After The Stranger.

Meanwhile, we could ask if the album title Butterfly Mind, refers to the music as the styles flit from one direction to another; never being allowed to settle comfortably in one place. In fact, we may well pose that very question to Tim. Expect encounters that range from the dreamy and soulful side that often gets the Art Rock tag. That comes via the lushness of Easier To Love (aided by the sax of Nicola Alesini) and About The Light That Hits The Forest Floor; the latter all wistful and delicate

Having dusted off the mirrorball for Love You To Bits, it’s back in full sparkling use on Always The Stranger and After The Stranger (which we might speculate could be distant relations to No Man’s Together We’re Stranger or it may simply be coincidental). Busy funky disco, rubbery basslines akin to Mick Karn’s iconic work and dance influenced pop sensibilities are to the fore. Tempos are maintained as a dose of post Punk energy abounds on Only The Fool. Jupp working at a pace he rarely encountered with Elbow as Dave Formula from Magazine/Visage appears to add synth for extra authenticity.

We head towards edgy eighties Gabriel with a bold rhythm and razor-sharp guitaron We Feel – the drum pattern is very Intruder-y and knits together a spikiness in the arrangement while the Anderson flute has a hint of Midnight Oil atmosphere. The Bowness trademark of combining melancholy with achingly gorgeous tuneage goes out the window as the lyric doesn’t quite make it to vitriolic and downright nasty stage but is certainly grittier and dirtier. The determination of the weak rising up, of fighting back – “We’ll make them fear, we’ll make them hurt., We’ll make them feel what we feel.” Right on brother.

From the title, Glitter Fades could feasibly be an outtake from the Lost In The Ghost Light album. The lyrics add to the impression in suggestion of the ruminations of a faded star past their prime – “We were a golden generation, the darlings of a cultured age,” and the longing for a to return to those times in the “take us back” refrain. Clever wordsmitheryis at play too on Dark Nevada Dreams – the longest of the tracks – that, having sprung the thought, could also fit with Ghost Light… moods. The “Mid-life, ex-wife” and “cold heart, weak art” along with the “Feel the urge, lose the urge, moments merge, emotions surge” combinations and smooth and sensual coolness make the track perhaps the most complete realistation of the butterfly mind.

A contender for our overused but very handy phrase of ‘never less than interesting’, Butterfly Mind is another exquisite piece of work. An all encompassing release to commemorate the fortieth anniversary.

Here’s Dark Nevada Dreams from the album:

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3 replies »

  1. Nice review Mike. The Prohibition Studio gig was a brilliant night – I finally got to see the man himself live after a wait of nearly 30 years. I can’t wait for this album to land on my mat this week.

  2. Typical Tim. Predictably unpredictable. Only two listens so far, but it’s already worming into my head and heart. Now for a Henry Fool reunion. Or a California, Norfolk 2.0…… Go on Tim. You know you want to. Pleeeeeeease

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