It’s time for my least favourite part of making a record!
Writing is incredible, watching words & music appear out of nowhere. Actual alchemy. Nobody can say where it comes from, for better or worse, richer or poorer. Read Frank Turner’s songwriting guff as much as you like, you really just have to try it and see. No special secrets. Have a thing to say. Say it. Next. Recording is MADNESS, so hard, but intensely rewarding.
But this part – playing it to people? Fucking terrifying. I don’t really even wanna know. Up until now, only a small a handful of folks have heard it. Today, though, it got sent out into the big wide world to live or die on it’s own two feet, to cleanly snap the neck of the metaphor. The first review came from Jon Wilks, celebrated Midlands folk singer and I could have hoped for no more. I am deeply flattered that he would care enough to play it, let alone review it! He shared a song of his own in reply and I include it here because I do love it so:
Now – here is Jon’s review of my LP, stripped out of his twitter thread:
“I’ve got no sleeve notes here, so I’m purely going on sound and intuition. “Physics and Form”. It’s raw. Alec’s voice and lyrics are direct, unrelenting, but the fingerpicking gentle… lilting. There’s something for Leonard Cohen fans here, and even a hint of Peter Sarstedt. “A Ditch Worth Dying For” feels like there’s an aesthetic forming. Similarly minimal. Washes of metallic sound. Weirdly, the soft pulse, the descending progressions, the deep-register vocals, the snapshot lyrics… I could put this on a mixtape alongside @KnowleWestboy Collab? “Safe Mode”… the album’s credentials now feel like they’ve been established. A wall of heavy electric guitar reverb adds a new texture to the palette. The producer steps in on backing vocals, a higher frequency cutting through what feels like quite a lot of anguish. “Leaves” – There’s a lift in mood – a hint that the sadness is lifting. Woodwind blows through the leaves. Alec’s lyrics continue to plumb the depths, but there’s a buoyancy here. Am I listening to a concept album? Are things afoot? This song tickles the ears. “Long Goodbyes” pt. 1 … OK, I’m cheating now. I’m having to go back and listen multiple times. I’ve been drawn in. This album is a mood, and I’m a sucker for a slightly distorted Rhodes. Juxtapositions. Alec’s battles rage. The Rhodes gazes softly. “Long Goodbyes” pt. 2 … I’m not sure what’s going on here, lyrically. I listen in pictures, as if I’m watching a movie, and this album is cinematic. There’s a lot here to see, and try and work out what you’re seeing. One viewing won’t do. Is this a Western? “Intermission (The Old Rugged Cross)” – Broken sound. Fragments. Hallucinatory. Album in microcosm. I’m having a little lunch break. Strange urge to eat a load of mustard. Not sure if that’s significant or not. “Patience” – The previous track established that the album is in two halves. Like someone trying to guess the end of the novel, I’m glancing at song titles ahead. “Dust down your wings, head for the light, pack up your things, you’re leaving tonight”. WHERE WE GOING, UNCLE ALEC? “Hand in Hand” pt 1 – I’m also a sucker for song lyrics that juxtapose the decidedly unromantic with eternal love. Examples: Morrissey’s double decker bus, Brian Wilson stating that he “may not always love you”. This is one of those. He’s not going to be done in by a virus or a dog-savaging. He’s heading into the light with his lovely one by his side. They’re going together. This is essentially a very long list of ways that Alec Bowman is *not* going to end his days. My favourite track so far. “The Event Horizon of You” pt 1 – The opening sigh is ominous. But it’s OK. If much of the first half was an ode to self-hatred, the juxtapositions we’ve been hearing are clear and powerful now. We’re in a gently loved-up world, and the lyrics are really very touching indeed… “The Event Horizon of You” pt 2 – Have a go on this one: “You’re still here today and I hope that you’ll stay, said the animal to the air”. Isn’t that special? I love that. The following couplet is just as wonderful, but I’m running out of space and I mustn’t give it all away. “My Kind Of Chaos” – Ah, this is great, too. Unapologetically romantic. “She’s my kind of chaos, strong just like me, which is weaker than I ever knew a person could be”. Alec might be my kind of self-deprecating songwriter. “Never the End of the World” – I’m at the end of the novel now, and I’m glad it never reached any kind of mariachi crescendo. It’s a gently positive ending – the sound of Alec having a word with himself and his listeners; urging them on. How to sum all this up… Summing up “I Used to Be Sad & The I Forgot” by Alec Bowman. Look, Alec’s new album is not an easy listen. It’s hard-going and it’s fairly unrelenting in places. But why make an honest album – and that’s what this is, no question – if you’re going to hide away in it? The emotional journey it takes you on is hugely rewarding. It’s the sound of an ordinary man emerging, but not in any phoenix-from-the-flames way. It’s a humble emergence – a gentle emergence. You’re left with a huge urge to give him a hug, probably because you recognise something of yourself in his journey and you needed to hear that story told, too. And as you listen to the final tracks – “Event Horizon” and “Chaos” – know that you’re listening to his muse on backing vocals, and make a mental note of how healing love is. This is a kind album, and with the world in the state that it’s in, it’s a great thing to have spent time with. Thanks for making it and sharing it with me, Alec.”
No, thank you, Jon xx
So, the first words are pretty much a dream review. I couldn’t have wished for more:) Let’s see what happens next!
Pre-order digital & CD here, streaming pre-saves coming soon x