Mr. Alec Bowman_Clarke: A Place Like Home
Honesty is a refreshing quality in life. That said, if everyone said exactly what they thought all the time, the world would quickly become a bit of an awkward place. The beauty of having an inner monologue saves us all from airing those darker, harsher or more embarrassing thoughts. Alec Bowman_Clarke suffuses his music with great candour. We get to hear that inner voice, like a soliloquy on a stage, and to roam through his mental landscape and explore all its rugged but beautiful topography on A Place Like Home.
If you’ve already caught onto his May 2020 album, I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot, you’ll be used to the bared soul of Bowman_Clarke’s lyrics, with the feeling of a wily Leonard Cohen character meeting a Charles Bukowski anti-hero for a deep chat and a drink or twelve. If you haven’t already caught onto his previous album, you could crank up the new EP for starters and then devour the album as your main course. If you’re still feeling voracious (or just greedy) you could finish your feast off with the EP’s Demos from Bandcamp, plus an indulgent drink of your choice (not available on Bandcamp, but definitely a worthy addition to the process).
“Play me all the deleted scenes,/ Mistakes and lies and all the hidden meanings./ Show me the view behind the stage door./I crawl on my knees on the cutting room floor,” are lines you might simultaneously expect from an accomplished photographer/videographer and yet something you totally would not expect from a modern visual artist. So much visual artistry, especially in the manipulative digital age of heavy post-production, veers towards the removal (and at times denial) of the undesirable. The entirety of the single released from the EP, Deleted Scenes, thrives on “filtering flaws” – and not filtering them out, but making a collection of them as evidence from which we can draw healthy conclusions. It’s like existential archaeology.
“I want to see under the skin” could easily be a strapline for all Bowman_Clarke works, as he regularly turns himself inside out for our musical, philosophical and poetic pleasure. A Red Light In A Darkroom talks of memory as “A cruel camera lens,” but only because it records truth and is “A mirror that remembers what you see.” Seeing means that you can “Look out for the light and shade of every night and day.” The chiaroscuro of Bowman_Clarke’s world feels balanced and realistic.
In this spirit of embracing imperfection, using low points as points of departure for future successes, The Ghost Of Mistakes acknowledges that although your house can be haunted by the past, you don’t have to call Jason Miller as Father Damien Karras to perform an exorcism, or summon Bill Murray to blast something with a proton pack. You may have “lost everything and started again,” but the best thing to do is to seek “new beginnings” and “happy endings,” rather than to meekly “Give up now and feather a nest/With everything needed for a comfortable death.” The ghost in the title can simply just be a house guest with whom we coexist, more of a Casper-style phantasm or someone from Rentaghost (a cultural reference for the kids there…). The interplay of Josienne Clarke’s clarinet and Bowman_Clarke’s double bass, their voices blending on the chorus (plus the beautiful clarinet solo) are all heavily redolent of happiness.
Billy Bragg-style guitars and Lukas Drinkwater’s keyboards make Speaking of Guns simple but uplifting. “I fill up my songs with things I can feel,” becomes another contender for Corduroy Punk Records’ new motto. The title track examines what ‘home’ feels like, whether that’s being at home in your house, in your skin, in a rancid hotel room, or even on social media. Despite the latter being a frequent punchbag for social commentators, and despite its limitations and drawbacks, there’s an underlying possibility in this song that if you find the right tribe and remain true to yourself online, as Bowman_Clarke himself seems to do, even your phone can bring a sense of home. For the EP to finish with “Maybe one day I’ll find a place like home,” befits the mood of understated and cautious optimism that the five songs possess.