Badly Drawn Boy
“Born In The U.K.”
2.5 stars out of 5
In doing some research on Badly Drawn Boy’s (BDB) fifth studio album, I learned that the final product is not what was originally intended to be released. While working on the album, BDB (Damon Gough) apparently came down with one wicked case of writer’s block. Most of the album was thrown out and Gough started over, putting together a collection of songs about growing up in the United Kingdom.
His lyrical construction is as sharp and insightful as ever. BDB’s lyrics are traditionally set up as a narration of an event or story. There’s no problem on this front. The real trouble begins with the musical arrangements and the melodies. At his finest moments, BDB’s song structures have been rich in nature, but retained a catchy, almost bouncy quality to them. This is what has endeared him to audiences both here and in the U.K., and certainly helped him win the Mercury Prize (Britain’s highest musical honor) in 2000 with his debut “The Hour of Bewilderbeast.”
Six years later it seems that this type of quality has vanished. The arrangements are still rich, though at several points it feels like Gough takes things a step too far, making it feel overdramatic. I hate to see songwriters as talented as Gough misstep in this fashion.
Key Tracks: “Born in the U.K.,” “A Journey From A to B,” “Degrees of Separation”
3.5 out of 5 stars
Some of you out there may be familiar with Jeremy Enigk without even realizing it. He was the front man for Sunny Day Real Estate, and also sang on the one Fire Theft record (aka three-quarters of SDRE).
Through all of that, he released another solo album, but that was back in 1996 in the midst of a tumultuous time for both him and SDRE. Now, it seems that the biggest fuss made about this record does not revolve around what it sounds like, but rather what it doesn’t sound like. While his first solo album proved to be a diversion from his previous work, his latest effort is nearly a depature.
Time has certainly had a maturing effect on Enigk and this record is a testimony to that. The melodies don’t venture above mid-tempo and are crafted using muted, arpeggio electric guitars, droning keyboards and a veritable orchestra of strings. With this profound musical base in place, Enigk proceeds to put on the most understated vocal performance of his career. Perhaps his most recognizable trademark, his soaring vocals, are the stuff of legend. This time though he comes back down to the music, trying to remain reflective rather than stand out. While this may get some flack for being too different from the rest of his catalogue, I applaud it for being an enjoyable change of pace.
Key Tracks: “City Tonight,” “Canons,” “Been Here Before”