In short, this is exactly the kind of music that will help you walk smoothly and confidently into a world full of noise and corruption. The tracks will open your mind, reshuffle some of your thoughts, and hopefully leave you feeling – well, free. Ready for anything.
It begins with a softness; a gentle ambiance, a dream-like setting, followed swiftly by an electronic wall of sound and alternative moods. Are You Hungry is the opening track – overall, it has the feeling of being the theme tune to some re-vamped and re-released eighties fantasy series. There is so much playfulness in the production, on a creative level; the leading riff is fairly consistent, so it has that thread – but the rest of the music just seems to have a mind of it’s own. It’s entertaining to listen to, and entirely unpredictable, which is always a great thing to stumble upon.
It’s In The Way is the second track on the release, the lushness of these dreamy, gentle voices, just washes over you. The melody and the effects used are so peaceful, positive and joyful. The lyrics on the other hand are completely unexpected for this kind of sound, which is fantastic. It’s new, untouched, yours to experience for the very first time. Just two tracks in and this is one of the most eclectic underground collections I’ve witnessed in a while.
Production aside, electronica, trip-hop, whatever you may wish to call it – this is song writing at it’s most experimental, exuding freedom, and expression of whatever it is the artist needs to express. The more you listen, the clearer it becomes, and by track three you’ve moved from electronica influences, to a little bit of MGMT, and then suddenly, a delightful touch of David Bowie; a fortunate and welcome link, considering the name.
This is wonderful music. It’s like theatre; a series of stories and unusual moments of reflection, ones you find yourself drawn to, and agreeing with. Fit In is the ultimate moment of Yes, as in Yes, this album is with me for the long run. The relevance and the unique nature of just about everything involved in the making of these songs, is something so appealing, and addictive. Nobody is really doing quite what Francis Bowie is doing at the moment, particularly not with so much style, and that all important, high quality production, which brightens up every corner of the art.
Cathedral gives us a little bit of a Depeche Mode vibe, but again there is this joyful optimism – in the chords, the brightness of the keys, the lightness of the beat, the softness of the vocal performance and the chorus melody. It’s like the momentous climax in a movie, celebrated by a winning choir, drenched in sunlight and good times. A gorgeous song.
Then we come to a track called Forever, and this minimal, musical backdrop tip-toes in, followed by a very raw and vulnerable sounding vocal. This is where it seems to get personal, meaningful, and very real. It’s like a reflection of the artist as a human being; a diary entry, in many ways, but with a beautifully dream-like piece of music to accompany the ideas. Not forgetting of course, the delightful, almost whispering, vocal performance – luring you into the centre of the concept and the sound.
Drown me in the sea.. I don’t want to be.. This song encapsulates the true essence of music as expression. The imagery fits flawlessly with the vocal tone and performance, and the music alongside of it all, or perhaps wrapped around it as a blanket of comfort, just enhances the whole idea even further. You really get drawn deeper and deeper into the mind of the artist as you listen to this album track by track.
From this point onward there is so much to notice. The music has become a comfort blanket to you as you listen, so there is only now the imagery, and the ideas conjured up by the sounds and the lyrics, to sit back and accept into your consciousness. It’s something I say often, but it’s true – you have to listen to the album as an album, in order to fully experience and appreciate it. Artists who take the time to complete an entire album; a lengthy, in depth collection of music and ideas – they mean what they put out. There’s effort and time put into it as a whole, and so to listen to just a fraction of it is to look at just one side of the sculpture.
In many ways the lyrics get deeper and darker as you progress through these songs. Superblind has some of the most profound and unusual lyrics I’ve heard in a long time, but on top of that, the music and the voice and the melody are just beautiful – all encompassing, soothing, compelling – so you want to listen. You want to know, you want to work it out. It’s not just randomness on top of loops on top of samples. Not by a long shot. It’s creative writing, on top of emotional performances, on top of a very forward thinking array of production.
Don’t Fucking Tell Me is a track which, in all honesty, caught my eye right from the start. From the moment I opened the album as a playlist, before even pressing play, this is the one that grabbed me. As it would, and as it does – we are drawn to the unusual, the unexpected, the shocking, the weird. I didn’t skip ahead and ruin the surprise. I heard this track when it finally stepped up to centre stage within the album. It was worth the wait.
What a beautiful and hugely unusual song. For a brief moment, there is distorted angst, with angry synthesizers at work, but on the whole – this a gorgeous piece of music. The instrumentation and the melody is so heavily juxtaposed with the lyrics, that you just can’t help but love it. From now on, there’s very little Francis Bowie could do to disappoint, but you don’t have to rely on that trust alone. The music is great. In a big way, the project is loaded with a warm kind of nostalgia, but it’s so very now that it’s hard to not think of the times as they are. It’s hard to lose yourself in the comfort of nostalgia, when there is so much else to think about – so much going on right now.
“If artist is a reflection of what the art is today, then I’m not an artist – no fucking way.”
The album puts forward a number of big ideas, lyrically. If you want to know the political thoughts of the artist, then Fuck Education is a great place to start. The lyrics are like modern poetry; spoken word that oozes opinion and suggestion. As always, opinion is opinion; everybody has one, but it’s worth listening to. Take it in. Consider it. Maybe find a little inspiration in the words. Or if not, revel in the creative shimmer of the music, and the artistic composition and performance throughout.
One thing you can’t deny about this album is that it showcases something far beyond just music. A lot of us search for a charismatic leader of the moment, at certain times in our life, someone with the confidence and the ideas and the skills to exercise a shared opinion with great volume and style. Francis Bowie, by all accounts, could well be this leader for a number of people. The sort of icon that I’m sure many music fans will relate to and follow; for the relevance, and the connection they feel to the music and the words and the expression in these songs.
Rollercoaster is another track that has that ethereal pop pureness of earlier moments – the beauty and the hopefulness, contrasted slightly with the lyrics and the ideas and the overall concept. There is optimism in the words, but there is most prominently a sense of realism. All the things we are; no filter, no bullshit. It’s something I’m certain a lot of people could get on board with. The next step for me is a live show.
The album ends with Salut, a dark and industrial sounding, instrumental track, with some playful and almost Disney-like backing riffs (I was reminded a little of the Lion King, the hang-drum sound perhaps). There’s just no knowing what to expect with the songs of Francis Bowie, and that’s something we should all be grateful for. Gone are the days of predictable, safe, pop. Music is starting to come from the depths of the soul again. As it should. And I look forward to hearing more.