June 6, 2021

In the music world there are plenty of stars and then there are far fewer real stars and they have that certain vitality or force about them that commands your attention immediately and any release by them is an essential purchase. You automatically know that whatever they produce, regardless of whichever genre they flit to and from, that their music is so essential and life affirming that you just have to have it and you also know that they will never let you down. At this stage we must ask Tim Bowness to step forward and take a bow as he is this essential artist and he really should be a household name throughout the world. From this little soapbox statement you can very rightly gather that I am a big fan of Tim Bowness a vocalist who can fill a song with so much melancholy and heart aching beauty like no other. This is a man whose heart walks in the sunlight whilst his soul stays forever in the shadows in some world that is forever autumn (no, not the Justin Hayward song).

Plenty – 1988 photo: Robert Whitrow

So now we have to pop back in time to 1986 when the band Plenty formed, coming together Phoenix-like after the demise of Liverpool post-punk band A Better Mousetrap and Warrington’s art rockers After The Stranger and, no, I’ve never heard of them either but it did bring Bowness to the attention of the world or at least those who cared to listen at the time! They were a three-piece with Bowness on vocals, Brian Hulse on guitars and keyboards with David K Jones on bass. They refined their sound to a synth pop/art rock derivative with a distinct sound of Talk Talk, Japan and Bowie/Eno style musings. As should be expected, this was a lush and complex mixture of David Sylvian type electronic experimentation, beautiful and melancholic ballads and all delivered with an intoxicating indie driven beat. They, obviously, didn’t take the world by storm but quite possible should have and left only a handful of songs on cassette EPs and that was that for the band with Bowness then teaming up with a certain Steven Wilson to form No–Man in 1987 and the rest, as they say, is history.

However, Plenty had unfinished business and reformed in 2018 to release the gorgeous and sublime It Could Be Home and give us all a hint of what could have been. Now we come to Enough the bands intriguing second album which is a double and seems to have been given the nickname of Old Borrowed and Older. CD 1 is split into two parts with Old being seven tracks that have been re-recorded with all the modern techniques and slightly re-invented and, far more importantly, not used on the comeback album. The CD then concludes with Borrowed which sees five delightful and somewhat unexpected covers from the band. The song titles are shown below with the tracks being more associated with It’s Immaterial, Suzanne Vega, The Teardrop Explodes, Kevin Coyne and Hank Williams and what an eclectic mixture they are too. However, once they have been given the rather special Plenty treatment then they, effectively, become different songs and the band can almost claim them as originals with their very reflective re-interpretations. It is strange because, in most cases they are iconic songs, but these new and different versions are so different that you do not even consider the original artist and that is exactly how a cover should be done. CD 2 is designated as Older and features seven demos which were laid down between 1986 and 1990 and actually stand very much side by side with the newer re-recorded material in terms of style, sound and performance. Indeed, it is recorded that several of these tracks had elements of their lyrics recycled for the new No-Man project. So, the new album is not exactly new but it is a vital release and very much part of the Bowness, Hulse and Jones story and definitely needs to be told and heard.

There are a couple of guests involved too with some old time collaborators including Tom Atherton on drums, Michael Bearpark on guitar/bass, Peter Chilvers on piano/synths and Charles Grimsdale on drums. I was prepared for this to be the Tim Bowness show but Brian Hulse and David Jones are every bit as vital with Hulse very much playing the foil to Bowness in almost the exact same way that Steven Wilson does/did. His guitar playing is essential to the sound of Plenty and is truly thrilling and other worldly at times with Brown also showing amazing skill with the bass and pedals. If you have heard any of the work of Bowness with No-Man, Centozoon, Henry Fool or his solo albums then you will already be waiting with money in hand for the release date to come round for this most excellent evocative and ethereal album. If the names are new to you then this is a superb way to get into some brilliant musicians and some out of this world music.

Sheer genius does not come around that often so get involved and buy this album; it could just change your life forever.

Enough track list

CD 1 – Old

  1. Forest Almost Burning (3:17)
  2. The Blessed Ones (3:24)
  3. The Walker (4:17)
  4. Towards The Shore (4:44)
  5. The Other Side (The Other Version) (4:17)
  6. Bleed A Little More (3:22)
  7. War Games By The Sea (Military Upgrade) (3:12)

Borrowed

  1. New Brighton (5:43)
  2. Soap & Water (2:48)
  3. Tiny Children (3:46)
  4. Forgive Me (3:36)
  5. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (2:46)

CD 2 – Older

  1. The Other Side (1986) (4:04)
  2. Forest Almost Burning (1987) (3:04)
  3. Sacrifice (1987) (4:46)
  4. Brave Dreams (1990) (3:26)
  5. Broken Nights (1990) (5:48)
  6. The Walker (1990) (4:12)
  7. Towards The Shore (1990) (3:46)
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