Mr Alec Bowman
I Used to Be Sad and Then I Forgot
Love Lorn Emotional Chaos Set To Delicate Melodies.
Any art form gains its strength from a number of factors in combination – in the case of “I Used to Be Sad and Then I Forgot,” the words are up front and centre and everything else is in the background, supporting those words – both musically and figuratively.
The opening track “Physics and form” is very much a guide for the whole album – structure, order and chaos are recurring themes, and the album begins in a very dark place.
Musically, Mr Alec Bowman’s delivery is that of the narrative Cohenesque minstrel – wistful dry and self-effacing, but laced with exaggeration that barely hides a much darker truth.
“A Ditch Worth Dying For” delves into the competitive world of pity “proving my scars are deeper than yours”, but ultimately personal pain is the worst – simply because it is personal.
“Safe mode” investigates the remedy to such suffering – don’t engage in the first place; “You can’t win or lose if you won’t play.” Picked guitar with distant discordant sounds metaphorically underline this, the distance between these sounds creating an emotional distance thanks to the sympathetic production of Josienne Clarke.
“Leaves” is the most up-tempo track so far, as the narrator’s emotional strength fights back with the notion that “I’d rather be stubborn that stung” – still keeping apart in a cocoon of emotional safety and avoidance though. The last song in what I see as the first “I used to be sad…” half of the album before the “but” is “Long Goodbyes” which voices frustration at the pointlessness of words raging that there’ll be “no more long goodbyes” – because what’s the point?
Placed in the middle of the album is “Intermission (The Old Rugged Cross)” – where things figuratively change. The track starts as if someone is playing in a distant room, and the song is muffled and unclear – but then the melody emerges clear and to the fore.
There’s an emotional awakening going on, that leads us into the …”and then I forgot” half of the album.
“Patience” leads off this half with a rumination on the frustration of waiting for emotional connection. Mr AB even out ‘Cohens’ Leonard Cohen with the line “Cracks where the line should come in” but “When you’re next to nothing, (there’s) nothing to lose” – so you have to wait for the right moment to find someone – and that’s the tough bit.
Follow-up “Hand in hand” is laced with black comedy, listing the “ways I hope I don’t die” – there’s studio chatter and laughing left in the recording – the joke is shared so that we can all appreciate the humour in the darkness. The sequencing of the album continues to follow the narrator’s emotional path – “The Event Horizon of You” – after the joy of recognising a kindred soul, who knows what will happen over the horizon – who knows “how time works”?
This uncertainty is embraced in the penultimate song “My Kind of Chaos” where our concerned hero admits that “my strength is not the size of a man” but he has empathy in a shared chaos with an empathetic soul.
The ordered chaos of the album is brought to a tidy conclusion on “Never the End of the World” where the impossible questions are floated “If you’re free to leave it’s not easy to stay” – things may not last, but don’t give up “hold on you’ll be back for more”… “so stand up for something all the way through” – be true to yourself.
This brings the emotional message of the album full circle – it’s a story of fundamental emotional need, connection and perseverance; the story of what makes life worth living.
This is not an album where you’re going to be leaping around to the delicately framed guitar and reed instrument backed songs, but it is an album to which you’ll turn to when your own emotional course runs the wrong way and you need reassurance and guidance and a deep, dryly humorous and thoughtful conversation with someone who’s travelled that same dark and lonely road.