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Badly Drawn Boy - A return to form?
on 8 October 2010
Damon Gough's lauded to the hilt 2000 debut "The Hour of the Bewilderbeast" accumulated so much critical praise (including the proverbial kiss of death namely the Mercury Prize) that everything else he has produced seems to have to been crushed by the weight of it. True, the soundtrack to "About a boy" kept up the outer veneer of Gough as a hot property but sadly his albums since have largely disappeared from view and amazingly in "It's What I'm Thinking Part One: Photographing Snowflakes" he has clocked up his seventh album release. It is also the start of a planned trilogy and thus while no one can criticize Gough's prolificness the key question surrounds the quality of the songs.
Let us get the second part of this disc out of the way first namely "It's What He's Thinking (Oxidising Hexagons Silver Iodide - Album Re-Dux / Sound Collage" by Andy Votel. If you have 19 minutes to spare you will either love or hate this track and frankly it did nothing for your reviewer than suggest an over indulgent producer with too much time on his hands and an inability to say "no". Thus do not start here since the first disc does contain at least three absolute corkers and a fair number of growers. In the former category is "Too many miracles" a roaring joy of a track with almost Motown underpinnings and a lovely vocal by Gough. "I'm ready to be in love again" he happily announces and if as a result songs like this are the product let us hope that he finds his hearts desire ASAP. The albums closer "This beautiful idea" is vintage Gough and could have happily sat on "Bewilderbeast" with its smart Elliot Smith like references and classic pop structure. While "The order of things" is a very nice electronic/acoustic song which gently rolls over 5 minutes and almost demands that you lie flat on the ground look up at the sky and watch the clouds go past. Its one of Gough's best songs in years and begs the question why he cant maintain this level of consistency or equally salient why he feels the need to be so bloody clever for the sake of it. Thus songs like " A Pure Accident" are good but they are not great, while the six minute plus title track "Its what I'm thinking" is frankly all a bit dull and safe.
But no need to finish on a downer since the opener "In safe hands" alternatively has a a nice melancholy shoegaze quality to it and repays further listens and "You lied" reminds me of a Sting song but in a good way! Gough's new album therefore certainly doesn't deserve the snotty comments of BBC reviewer Mark Beaumont (whose blog "Spouting off and banging on" is to be fair often a excellent read) and perhaps he needs to send his views over to another part of the corporation since BBC 6 recently made it album of the day. That said let us hope that if there are indeed two further volumes of this to come that Gough can build on the strengths of this album and rapidly discard its weaknesses. If so his "hour" may yet again come around.