Stupid Things That Mean The World, my third solo album, was finished in mid-April.
Compared with Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, the making of the album was a bit of a long slog with many obstacles (illnesses, recording problems, moving house and so on), but despite (or because of) this the result definitely feels like something of a progression from its predecessor, and very much like the second part of a new chapter that ADD began (which, luckily, was exactly what I was after when I started the process of making the album).
That almost all the album’s music was written in 2014 and 2015 (and mostly recorded in 2015) was also pleasing. Two very different songs emerged at the very end of the sessions and they may be amongst my personal favourites of songs that I’ve been involved in making. The Great Electric Teenage Dream is one of the most aggressive pieces I’ve sung on, while the other new song (Know That You Were Loved) shares the quiet ‘end days’ melancholy and introspection of perhaps my all-time favourite no-man song, Things I Want To Tell You.
One of the exceptions to the 2014 / 2015 rule is All These Escapes, which is a new version of an old Plenty song from 1988. Re-recording lines I’d originally sung over half a lifetime ago was less strange than I thought it would be, and it was surprisingly easy to inhabit the emotional core of the song, while also being aware that (certainly lyrically) it was something that I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) have come up with over the last two decades.
Another part exception to the 2014 / 2015 rule is Sing To Me, which evolved out of a no-man demo from 1994 called Best Boy Electric. I heard BBE for the first time in over 20 years when Steven Wilson sent it to me in October 2014 (for consideration for a possible reissue of no-man’s Lost Songs album). I’d completely forgotten the song, and on re-hearing it in 2014 couldn’t understand why we’d abandoned it (it being so at odds with the emerging Wild Opera material is my guess). I wrote a new lyric and a couple of new instrumental themes, and Stephen Bennett suggesting doubling the length. As a result, a one and a half minute fragment from 1994 turned into a six minute epic from 2015. Sing To Me reminds me of aspects of the early no-man that I loved, while also feeling very much a part of the music I’m currently making.
My STTMTW (not as catchy as ADD, I grant you!) collaborators have been both returning (Bennett, Bearpark, Booker, Edwin, Keeling, Phoebe, Hammill) and new (Bruce Soord, David Rhodes, Rhys Marsh) and, overall, there’s a greater diversity of mood and style than is common on most of my releases. Jarrod Gosling once again provided some unique artwork and Charlotte Kinson came good with promotional photographs (acting on the difficult instruction, “Make me look human.”).
As with ADD, it’s great at this stage of my life to still feel that I’m releasing some of my best work and to still be excited by the process of making and releasing it.
Big Hard Excellent Fish – And The Question Remains (2013)
Bjork – Vulnicura (2015)
Captain Beefheart – Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972 (2015)
Electric Wurms – Musik, Die Schwer zu Twerk (2014)
David Cross and Robert Fripp – Starless Starlight (2015)
The Flaming Lips – Peace Sword (2013)
Glenn Gould – Bach: The Art Of Fugue (1962)
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975)
Sanguine Hum – Now We Have Light (2015)
The Who – Who’s Next (1971)
Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015)
Emily St John Mandel – Station Eleven (2014)
Chuck Palahniuk – Haunted (2005)
Better Call Saul (2015)