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Tim Bowness - Abandoned Dancehall Dreams CD (album) cover


Tim Bowness


Crossover Prog

3.81 | 119 ratings

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4 stars I've never really liked No-Man. I'm one of those people that likes to treat Steven Wilson as some sort of god among men, and I am a huge fan of every single one of his musical endeavors with the exception of No-Man and I.E.M. (and to a certain extent Bass Communion). I feel that I should love it - Steven writing dreamy pop music, but none of their albums ever really clicked with me, even after giving the fan-favourite Together We're Stranger a good four or five listens during my 2003 focus last year. The compositions just aren't as melodically interesting, and even though at times I kinda get the vibe they were going for, I can never say a No-Man album is anything more than "ok", and I feel that a lot of it comes down to Tim Bowness' voice. It's just got such an irritating timbre, and he tries to be dramatic and breathy far too many times in his delivery. Give me a No-Man record with Sir Steven singing lead and it may jump up a full 2 points. Ironic, then, that the first thing I actually enjoy from this project, is an album with no Steven Wilson input.

And yes, to those wondering, this is a No-Man record, despite Mr Bowness' name being the one on the cover, since all of these songs were written to be a No-Man record originally, but with Steven abandoning him to continue sucking off Robert Fripp (I'm not complaining by the way), Bowness decided to release them himself, and at least had the courtesy to put it under a different name. But unlike the abomination of Blackfield IV, this actually wouldn't bring any real disrepute to the No-Man catalogue, since as I said before, this is actually rather good. This is easily the rockiest I've heard No-Man at, with some of these songs being quite heavy and grooving. Should the opening pair of tracks have been placed on a true No-Man record, nearly everyone would assume they were Wilson compositions, so it nearly seems that Bowness is rocking up his sound a bit in order to overcompensating for his missing boyfriend.

As I said before, it's the opening duo of "The Warm Up Man Forever" and "Smiler at 50" that really bring this album forward in my ears. The opener has the traditional sultry groove that No- Man has dabbled in in their trip-hop days, but with the stellar string parts and the jumpy rhythms from the bass and drums it becomes an entirely different beast - energetic and quite fun, but in a melancholic sort of way. The second track has a first half reminiscent of what No-Man have been doing on their last two albums (although with a good melody), with its dramatic piano and violin lighting up the melancholy. But the real treat comes at the end of the track, where Tim decides to imitate his best friend in the nicest way possible, bringing a noisy and chaotic wall of noise straight in, smothered in choirs and strings and flute, sounding directly off one of Steven's recent solo records. It's fantastically intense, and the intensity is what No-Man have always needed in my mind, since the rest of their music is so needlessly dreary.

But it's almost as if these two tracks, being more upbeat and exciting and energetic than the standard No-Man material, create a nice opening for the rest of the album, which more or less is standard No-Man material. An album like Together We're Stranger spends its entire length being moody and dark and repetitive and honestly quite dull, but even if some of the songs have moments, the entire record sounds pretty much the same, so they're drowned in boredom and sameyness to the point where I can't even enjoy them as moments. The remainder of Abandoned Dancehall Dreams isn't too far off from those records, being primarily ambient pop music with a focus on dreamy and dreary atmospheric grooves, but with the wonderful opening pair, the songs really start to open up, because they're not waves in an ocean, they're like the first sight of the ocean after a rocky climb over land. There are no real highlights of the remaining tracks, but all but a couple feature nice parts within them. I'll admit that I still can't really get into Bowness' voice, but the dreamy piano and guitar that flows through his structuring finally starts to open up to me on this album.

The one thing that Abandoned Dancehall Dreams has really done for me though, is give me a bit more hype for when Steven returns to No-Man. It's evident that Tim has tried to fill his absence with songs like Smiler at 50, but a full-on return from him could bring about some wonderful compositions in the vein of the Insurgentes record (still waiting for a sequel, Steven). But for now, Abandoned Dancehall Dreams is certainly my favourite record from Mr Bowness' career, and I'm really glad that I'm finally starting to appreciate and understand him, because he has evaded me for the longest time.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Gallifrey | 4/5 |


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