Artist: Tim Bowness
Album Title: Butterfly Mind
Label: InsideOut Music
Date of Release: 17 June 2022
Cards on the table, I know nothing of the band No-Man and up until I was presented with the opportunity to listen to this record in advance of its release, I’d never clapped ears on any of Tim Bowness’ previous solo material either. You could say then that I’m a true novice, something that will either work in my favour or against me. What you can guarantee though, is that I come to this review with literally no expectations or prior knowledge, as well as a viewpoint that’s unencumbered by any outside influences. Not for the first time, I’m a blank slate.
It’s probably an unnecessary exercise for many but for those who, like me, are less familiar with the work of Tim Bowness, it is worth mentioning that he is joined by a stellar cast of musicians on ‘Butterfly Mind’. Joining the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist throughout this record are Nick Beggs (bass, chapman stick), Brian Hulse (guitars, keyboards, programming), and drummer Richard Jupp. And then there is a whole host of guests that add their talents to a song or two. The list runs into double figures but most eye catching for me are Big Big Train’s Greg Spawton (bass pedals) and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson (flute).
My desire to listen to anything and everything this year in particular has paid off numerous times so far, but it can’t always be a successful approach – the law of averages alone will dictate that some of my exploration will result in a dead end, or with an artist failing to ignite the fires within me. Sadly, this is one of them. So why continue with my review? Because I have spent a lot of time listening to ‘Butterfly Mind’ and so I feel I can put together a cogent set of reasons why I don’t personally get hit square in the feels by Tim Bowness’ latest creation, rather than simply dismissing it. It may be that my reasons for failing to connect are the exact reasons why someone else will love it or give it a listen when maybe they otherwise wouldn’t.
After all, an album can be very good and still not be someone’s cup of tea. And ‘Butterfly Mind’ is absolutely a very good album that is full of great material. I’m not deaf to this, and I’d certainly not decry otherwise. But at the end of the day, after careful listening and consideration it’s just not for me. But why?
My normal musical preference is at the heavier end of the spectrum, of that there is no secret. However, I enjoy my fair share of music that’s quieter, more relaxed, or of a different genre entirely. The fact that I adore bands like Big Big Train, Toto, Fleetwood Mac, White Moth Black Butterfly, and any number of gentler prog rock acts go some way to demonstrate this. Therefore, there’s every chance that I’d like this offering from Tim Bowness.
The key factor in my enjoyment of this music is the melodic sensibilities contained within. And that’s the first issue I have personally with ‘Butterfly Mind’. It is a very melodic, warm, and inviting album that sounds a million dollars in terms of the production that envelops the listener like a faithful favourite blanket. But the melodies that feature within the album rarely get me excited or send a tingle down my spine. I nod appreciatively occasionally, but that’s about it.
As a result, I don’t have that emotional connection with the music that others will have. If the melodies don’t resonate strongly with me, I find the listening experience to be a perfunctory one, rather than a truly emotional one. That’s what I find here. It’s a sorrowful sounding album, but without the hooks and melodies to really tug at my heartstrings.
Songs like ‘It’s Easier To Love’ will be massive hits for many, but for me, this track is one that’s a bridge too far. The abundant saxophone is always going to be a problem for me given my prejudices towards the instrument, but regardless, the song is too whimsical, smooth, and bland for my tastes. If it had a killer hook within it, I might think differently, but it doesn’t, and I’m not too displeased when it ends.
The pulsing bass lines within follow up ‘We Feel’ as well as the increased energy injected by some nice guitar tones, embellishments, and sparingly used riffs rouses me a little from my near comatose state. It is one of the more immediate songs on the album, alongside ‘Always The Stranger’, which is a lively and vibrant affair albeit too short and sweet. It features some nice melodic touches that I latch on to, whilst I like the breathy, almost whispered vocals at points.
The vocals of Bowness himself are both a help and a hindrance to my enjoyment. At times, his delivery feels really unique and interesting, whilst at others, I’m less keen on his voice. It’s odd because I’ve rarely had this experience – I either like or dislike a voice outright.
‘Lost Player’ could be an even better track than it is, but it just fails to do anything particularly special or irresistible despite threatening to do so before fizzling out to nothing rather disappointingly. Then there’s ‘Only A Fool’ which is just plain odd, which could be a positive attribute were it not for some of the electronic sounds which I find a little overbearing and jarring. It’s a similar appraisal for ‘Glitter Fades’ which features an electronic beat to accompany the organic drums. It’s here that I find Bowness’ vocals most hard to enjoy, but I fully appreciate that this is me rather than his delivery which will no doubt hit the mark for his loyal fans and fans of this kind of music in particular. And it is a nice song, especially with the onset of some gentle orchestration in the latter stages; it’s just not a composition that I can warm to, as hard as I try.
I really do hope that I have been fair and transparent with this review, and I have given an insight into why I am not as enamoured as many others will be by this record. As I have said many times, almost ad nauseum, ‘Butterfly Mind’ is not a bad album, far from it. Indeed, I wish I liked it more than I do. But I don’t, and that’s a genuine shame because I came to this with genuine interest and an open mind ready to be impressed, to announce to me in glorious technicolour what I’ve been missing over the years. Ultimately, it wasn’t to be, but don’t be put off by my thoughts on this – if you think that this might be something you’ll enjoy, check it out. And if you do, I honestly hope you will have a more positive experience than I’ve had.
The Score of Much Metal: 70%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: