Skillfully crafted British Indie Pop from Badly Drawn Boy
They love him in the UK. Badly Drawn Boy’s 2000 release, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, sold 300,000 copies. It won the Mercury Music Prize in 2000 (A British honor that comes with £20,000, thank you), beating out Richard Ashcroft, Coldplay, The Delgados, and Doves. Damon Gough (his real name) has a very loyal following in Britain and collectors have paid £100 for copies of his very first EP. He hasn’t gotten a lot of traction in the U.S. yet, though.
If you haven’t heard Bewilderbeast, it is a lush sonic landscape with a lot of variety. Guitar and piano riffs are spiced up with horns, strings, xylophone, harp, and sound effects to create song after song that perfectly achieves the groove it is trying for. The disc is well sequenced, too, so even though BDB explores a lot of different styles on this disc, it doesn’t feel disjointed. I will confess there are a couple tracks I don’t like very much on this release, but most of them are very good. Seven are on my iPod:
- The Shining – Cello and French horn ease us into this album on a pretty tune that sounds a bit like Eliot Smith.
- Everybody’s Stalking – This song may be the one that led one reviewer to quip that it sounds like Badly Done Beck. I disagree. Certainly, Beck has used this twanging guitar sound, but he didn‘t invent it either. It’s a great pop hook.
- Fall in a River – This short and happy tune has a cheerful piano chord progression backed by dreamy plucking on a guitar.
- Camping Next to Water – Another sweet, small song about taking a little time off in a relationship.
- Another Pearl – The melody of this song was lodged in my head for days when I first got this disc. Very catchy.
- Once Around the Block – A little wah-wah guitar and vamping, jazzy drums drive this song which, again, neatly fits into the pocket it’s trying to create.
- This Song – It’s only a minute and a half and a little weird, but I like the watery guitar and reverbed vocals.
This was his major label debut and to my ear his best work so far. You might find something else you like, though, on his website.
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