A doff of the woolly hat to his beloved Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA
, Damon Gough's fifth album as Badly Drawn Boy, finds him musing on modern life, national heritage, and finding the space to crack wise a little along the way. Gough's approach to the knotty subject of patriotism is not quite as chest-beating as Springsteen's, but in truth it's just as conflicted. Take the title track; it mentions the hosepipe ban, Sid Vicious and the Falklands conflict, yet far from being a straight-up nostalgia tract, still confronts the troublesome contradictions of the British patriot: "We made something out of nothing/A sense of loathing and belonging". Perhaps it's true to say that Born In The UK
finds the Badly Drawn one looking behind rather than in front: the country-tinged "The Way Things Used To Be" even strikes a wry note of self-mockery amid the rather traditional songwriting within. But if time has blunted Badly Drawn Boy's impulse to challenge his audience, there's a genuine warmth and optimism to songs like "Welcome to the Overground" that mark Gough out as a rare author who can pull off sentimentality without sounding forced or trite. --Louis Pattison
In the summer of 2005, Damon Gough had a bit of a crisis. Despite having penned a score of new songs for his fifth LP with Stephen Street, a producer many musicians would give their left arm to work with, his heart just wasn't in it. So the man in the hat ripped it all up and started again.
Clearly, Badly Drawn Boy is a man ruled by his heart, and he'll follow wherever it may lead. Eventually, it led him back home, to the things that he loves - his wife, his kids, and his roots. Hence the focus of Born In The U.K. and its Springsteen-esque title track, on which BDB pays homage to the best of Blighty ('Life On Mars', the Sex Pistols, Margaret Thatcher). But the influence of The Boss runs deeper here than just the titular pun. 'If we still don't have a plan,' Gough sings on album closer 'One Last Dance', 'we'll just listen to 'Thunder Road''.
Clearly, the Boy's been listening hard. Springsteen's confident songsmithery resonates throughout, making this Gough's most contented and least introspective album since his Mercury-winning debut. In fact, only on the overblown romp 'Welcome To The Overground' does he put a foot wrong.
'Time Of Times', on the other hand, is a real pleasure. Tipping its hat gently at fan favourite, 'The Shining', it encapsulates in three charming minutes everything that Brits have come to love about the bearded one. Long may he reign. --Richard Banks
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