Badly Drawn Boy

30 Jul

Picture of the Badly Drawn Boy album

Watch as he noodles through his first album or is it five great EPs on the same bit of vinyl?

Badly Drawn Boy The Hour of Bewilderbeast (Twisted Nerve) So the eagerly-anticipated debut album from Damon Gough, a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy, has finally arrived. If the long wait was a cunning plan, it worked. The hype surrounding Badly Drawn Boy (at least among the alternative music press) has been dragging on for so long that ‘Bewilderbeast‘ has been greeted with a rare bout of realism. He first burst on to the scene a couple of years ago, to obligatory and misplaced Beck comparisons. Since then he has released a number of relatively low key EPs and a succession of (deliberately?) amateur live performances, with which he has successfully side-stepped having to become a ‘star’. When he took time out to collaborate with Unkle on the riff-tastic ‘Nursery Rhyme’, the result was one of the high points of their ‘Psyence Fiction’ album. ‘…Bewilderbeast‘ contains no such stand out track, with most of the album following the folk-pop of the last singles – ‘Once Around The Block‘ and ‘Another Pearl‘ – both making a lot more sense here than they did on chart-bothering EPs. What does stand out on first listen is the consistency of style throughout the album, with each song clearly created while sitting around with an acoustic guitar, before going into the studio to overlay lots of background cameos and effects. Fortunately, the only evidence of Damon’s oft-quoted appreciation of Bruce Springsteen is the ‘classic’ style that forms the basis of most songs, rather than any attempt to recreate chest-beating stadium rock in the vein of ‘Born in the USA‘. The whole thing ends up sounding like Simon and Garfunkel being covered by the Beta Band. It’s the diversions in the background which raise Badly Drawn Boy well above the ordinary, but there’s no danger of ‘what does this button do?’ studio noodling. The additions and diversions are subtle and fit neatly into/between the songs. So neatly, in fact, that you barely think anything of it when the last verse of ‘Fall in a River‘ is played underwater. This is one of a trio of water-obsessed songs near the beginning and, in a creditable display of bladder control, it’s not until 8 tracks later that it comes back to haunt him in the country-tinged but catchy ‘Pissing in the Wind‘. After several listens, more areas of light and shade appear, although I’m no closer to finding a favourite track (I usually end up humming the last one I heard for the rest of the day). But in the end, it’s the consistency of mood that prevents this from being a classic album. Perhaps his self-confessed perfectionism has led to Damon fully realising his vision in each and every song, at the expense of spontaneity and unpredictability. Perhaps there’s just too many tracks here, diluting the album’s impact. It may not be a great album, but buy it anyway and pretend it’s five great EPs. (7/10)

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