It's What I'm Thinking Part 1: Photographing Snowflakes
With a debut album which would be the envy of most artists, Badly Drawn Boy has never really lived up to his early promise. However, a raft of quality singles have helped keep the machine ticking along and the media are billing this record as something of a comeback. Whilst a "comeback" might seem quite a harsh description for an artist who has consistently release new material over the past ten years (including last years shockingly overlooked soundtrack Is There Nothing We Could Do?) the album does feel like a fresh start. Damon Gough can be seen as either endearingly honest or somewhat arrogant and in a recent interview for BBC 6 Music he stated "I know that I've got ideas that are very difficult to achieve...I'm always really frustrated that I don't put across what I'm capable of doing. It's a feeling of spontaneity and not being afraid. In the past I've been stifled by my own abilities." This may have been a backlash from the major label disaster Born In The UK but Badly Drawn Boy has now returned to indie pastures and the result is an album of beautiful gloom. Opener "In Safe Hands", with its distant shoegazy vocal, is a subdued start to the album (nothing unusual), the album rally gets into swing with the single "Too Many Miracles", an upbeat slice of 60s tinged pop and perhaps his most accessible track since About A Boy. In fact, many of the songs on this record feel like they belong on a film soundtrack. Sat at the piano seems to be the position where Gough now seems most comfortable (especially noticeable if you've seen him perform live in the last five years), and whilst not quite tinkling the ivory heights of "You Were Right" (from 2002 album Have You Fed The Fish, "What Tomorrow Brings" is an album highlight complete with an orchestral backing. The strings continue on "I Saw You Walk Away", which is both chart-friendly and melancholy (this is probably as chart friendly as modern Badly Drawn Boy gets). Whilst "A Pure Accident" finds the right balance between catchy pop and rough around the edges bedroom folk, "You Lied" has an unsettling air of latter day Dire Straits with its over produced bass heavy MOR plod. "This Beautiful Idea" has an unusual hook which reminds you why everybody loved The Hour Of Bewilderbeast all those years ago. Not that the album closer seems dated, it goes out with a bang and keeps you interested enough to look forward to part 2, whenever that may arrive. Damon Gough recently stated that the works of Manchester artist Danny Cawley inspired him to pick up a guitar again, its hard to see where the influence appears on this album but the results are a leap in the right direction.