Tim Bowness: Lost In The Ghost Light (Inside Out)
CD/DL/2LP vinyl/special edition CD
With his third album for Inside Out, Tim Bowness continues to raise the bar. The preceding Abandoned Dancehall Dreams and Stupid Things That Mean The World (review here) merely appetisers for an album which must surely rate as his most fully realised work. Mike Ainscoe reviews for Louder Than War.
It’s an album whose topic has been on the backburner for a few years, some songs or parts already having been utilised on the previous two records, yet finally finds its place, evolving fully formed as a fascinating set of songs which form, shock…horror, a concept album. One which is built on the regular Bowness band of Colin Edwin, co-writer Stephen Bennett and Andrew Booker, with Bruce Soord adding a touch of his own Pineapple Thief sparkle on guitar. Guest appearances too from David Rhodes and Ian Anderson, with Steven Wilson popping by to add his not inconsiderable engineering skills make the team sheet read like a fantasy football eleven.
The eight songs across forty five minutes typify the perfect album listening length (as opposed to a bloated CD filling seventy plus minutes) and revolve around the reflections of a fictional rock musician in the twilight of his career having travelled the road from success and complacency to a life and career founded on compromise and disappointment. Sound a familiar tale? Bands or musicians that immediately spring to mind? No doubt a concept rooted in fact and as such barely disguised. At the same time, there’s the parallel route that maps the change from the album orientated days to the current climate of streaming and free downloading, leaving the musician in the precarious position of what Brian Eno called “the last blacksmith in town”, an artisan plying his trade to a dwindling appeal and audience.
There are constant little lyrical teases and hints as our hero deliberates over his past, his musical journey and his position in the current scene…“Once you had vision, played the music of your dreams”, “No weight of expectation, just joy in what you found”, “Wearing the styles of your age, a slave to the whims of a phase”…as another musician from a different age, who still holds his own in the contemporary climate. Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, adds a flawless and peerless flute on the closing Distant Summers, a song which hints both musically and lyrically at the glories of those idealistic, rose tinted days gone by, while Kit Watkins and Andrew Keeling add similarly Anderson-esque flute elsewhere on the record.
Musical clues add to the lyrical thread as Bowness revisits progressive themes, the reedy organ and flute three minutes into the opening track, contrast with the less comfortable drums and bass pattern and angular guitar and strings of Kill The Pain That’s Killing You and a impeccable proggy instrumental section to You Wanted To Be Seen which perfectly recalls the neo prog days of the late eighties and early nineties. Naturally all is topped off with the signature Bowness lushness and gently detailed soundscapes and his customary breathy vocal.
The title track a cameo of one of the sort of things that might punctuate Floyd’s The Wall, dark and furtive, suggesting an underlying sinister side to the story, it provides further contrast with Nowhere Good To Go, the gorgeously pastoral flute drifting over the reflections on the stardom when girls who would smother you with flattery and the intense fandom of boys who would claim to know the secrets of your past.
The full realisation comes in the whole package, the artwork detailing the dressing room of the musician, packed with clues and artefacts, one to pore over as you might have done (or still do with those gatefold album sleeves) – watch out for the fake profile of the band soon to appear on the Tim Bowness website.
Ultimately the album may be “an attempt to capture a particular world before it disappears, a sort of wildlife documentary about an endangered species Alternatively, it could be my equivalent of making a period film or TV series.” Either way, Lost In The Ghost Light is indisputably a milestone work.