"Schoolyard Ghosts" (Snapper / KScope; 2008)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

No-Man will never be confused for a hard rock or metal band, that’s for certain. However, whenever Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield) is involved in a music project there’ll be interest from the hard rock/heavy metal camps. No-Man is the long-running project of Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson – this project got started long before Porcupine Tree became the fan darlings of the progressive and metal genres.

“Schoolyard Ghosts” features aching songs that are not too dissimilar from past No-Man efforts. Sometimes it is best to let the band describe themselves: No-Man notes that their music combines art-rock, electronica, experimental pop, jazz and contemporary classical music. Grounded by great songwriting, Bowness and Wilson explore the outer limits of texture and tone without getting too weird.

Tim Bowness’ vocals are quite similar to Steven Wilson; for years I’ve had to convince myself when listening to No-Man that I’m actually not listening to Wilson. If one pays enough attention, Bowness comes across as a somber fellow, but there are shades of light, joy, and sublime happiness.

The solemn arc of “Schoolyard Ghosts” is a bit of a downer, but held in the proper perspective is an enlightening journey. The songs ache in a way that you might have endured similar experiences in some fashion or other, but these are the types of experiences that you’d clearly wish never to repeat. The understated nature of the material makes it difficult to hear the various styles being mixed together, but ultimately is what makes the songs shine so brightly.

Beauty reigns with poignancy in “Wherever There Is Light” and lead single “All Sweet Things” yearns for simpler times in the past. “Pigeon Drummer” is the most *metal* song No-Man has ever done with its crashing cascade of drums laying waste to the mellow undertow. The epic “Truenorth” moves through three parts

Fans of progressive rock will enjoy “Schoolyard Ghosts.” 

“Schoolyard Ghosts” was produced by No-Man.

No-Man Tim Bowness on vocals and Steven Wilson on guitar, piano, organ, bass, glockenspiel, and vocals. Bowness and Wilson are joined by Andy Booker, Marianne de Chastelaine, Peter Chilvers, Rick Edwards, Colin Edwin, Gavin Harrison, Bruce Kaphan, Fabrice LeFebvre, The London Session Orchestra (arranged by Dave Stewart), Pat Mastelotto, Pete Morgan, and Theo Travis.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04 Jun 2023 13:31:51 -0400 .