published: 18 /
Burning Shed Records
Format: CD X2
Fascinating but overwhelming collection of new and historical material from 1980’s Liverpool post-punk art rock group Plenty
A largesse of new and historical material from 1980’s post-punk art rock group Plenty
'Enough' is the result of lockdown projects of singer-songwriter-musician Tim Bowness and his Plenty bandmates David K. Jones and Brian Hulse, including a collection of their original 1980’s demos and an unusual set of cover songs. For dedicated fans, this is a goldmine of a compilation. For those who are less familiar with Plenty, it can be bewildering and overwhelming.
The two CD’s are broken into three categories: 'Old', 'Borrowed', and 'Older' (and, as Bowness notes, “All blue”). 'Old' and 'Borrowed' were recorded in 2020 and 2021 and consists of re-recorded material from the 1980s. The most familiar songs on 'Old' are 'Forest Almost Burning' and 'The Walker', which both appeared on No-Man albums, Tim Bowness’s duo with Steven Wilson after Plenty.
'Borrowed' contains five randomly chosen cover songs. 'Soap & Water' by Suzanne Vega, a jazzed up version of Teardrop Explodes’ 'Tiny Children', 'Forgive Me' by Kevin Coyne, It’s Immaterial’s 'New Brighton', and Hank Williams’ 'I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry'. The Williams cover is surreal and bears little resemblance to the original but does sound like a nod to the Johnny Cash/Nick Cave duet Bowness mentions in the liner notes. I didn’t think it was possible to make the song sound sadder than Hank’s or Elvis’s versions, but Bowness has succeeded.
Their seven demos from 1986-1990 are on disc two, 'Older'. They feature Michael Bearpark on guitar and bass (who also shows up on 'Old',as do drummer Tom Atherton, drummer Charles Grimsdale, and piano and synth player Peter Chilvers). Considering the age of the demos and the equipment they were recorded on, they sound incredibly clear, certainly more so than many deliberately “lo-fi” albums of more recent vintage. Especially if one has a soft spot for the ‘80s chorus pedal effect, the original demos might be preferable. Either way, it is fascinating to be able to compare the original versions of 'Forest Almost Burning', 'The Walker', 'Towards the Shore' and 'The Other Side' with the updated ones on 'Old'.
The music on all three sections is still characteristically beautiful, sad, fragile, and wistful. Bowness’s vocals (which haven’t changed a bit) are often so quiet that they can barely be heard unless one is listening with headphones/ear buds.
The CD booklet contains lyrics, which is helpful, and explanatory background notes from Bowness. For example, about
'The Other Side (The Other Version)' he writes, “To this day I’m still surprised at my blatantly John le Carre influenced lyrics (atypical for me then and now). As I’ve written elsewhere, though I’d done some interesting things before (particularly with a Manchester band called Still, my initial collaborations with Brian marked the first time I was making music that I’d personally listen to.” There is also a funny anecdote about arguing over whether he should be allowed to buy disapproved-of records from surly Pete Burns at Probe Records in Liverpool.
The CD booklet format is limiting, of course, but a little more band timeline history would help those listeners who don’t already have it all committed to memory. Enough is an interesting collection from an overlooked band, and not just an updated time capsule.
Forest Almost Burning
The Blessed Ones
Towards The Shore
The Other Side (The Other Version)
Bleed A Little More
War Games By The Sea (Military Upgrade)
Soap & Water
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
The Other Side (1986)
Forest Almost Burning (1987)
Brave Dreams (1990)
Broken Nights (1990)
The Walker (1990)
Towards The Shore (1990)
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