❉ Gough’s first studio album in a decade is timeless and contemporary.
Back in the days before the internet (remember that, kids – possibly showing my age here!) I would avidly devour musical magazines like the much-missed Q and Mojo to cater to my tastes for old school prog and classic rock, and my curiosity for discovering new artists.
Imagine a world where there was no You Tube, no Spotify, no internet playlists, instead you had magazines who gave you in depth reviews of new artists, and it’s from these pages (which, much like my Grandad turning to the back of the paper for the sports first) I would always head to the back pages to dive deep into the reviews.
I lost count of albums I bought purely on the strength of reviews without hearing a single note by the artist, bands and artists I now count as favourites like Goldfrapp, Elbow, Doves, Ed Harcourt, Maps to name but a few found their way onto my shelves via a favourable review.
Badly Drawn Boy is another of those artists, I first noticed his work on his debut Mercury Prize nominated Hour of Bewilderbeest album, and his latter albums like Have You Fed The Fish?, the About a Boy soundtrack (I still can’t imagine anyone else recording the soundtrack) and my favourite (so far) One Plus One Is, have spent plenty of time on my CD player and in my life.
Astonishingly, this new album is his first musical release since 2012, and having had a good old listen to it, I am so glad he’s back.
Fellow Boltonian Sara Cox had the lead single Is This a Dream? on heavy rotation for weeks before the album was released on her Radio 2 Teatime show, and it is pure classic Badly Drawn Boy, an uplifting melody, some heartfelt lyrics and a beautiful hook, it was like he’d never been away.
The album itself opens up with the title track, and when I first played it, from getting the promo download I had to double check I’d got the right album, as an opening track, and indeed a Badly Drawn Boy song it comes right out of leftfield, it’s a full on jazz fusion track, with stonking trombones and jazz improvised trumpets all over it, and sounds nothing like anything Damon’s done before. Which is a good thing, as it has a contemporary and experimental edge to it which shows you can teach an old songwriter new tricks, and he blends the jazz fusion into his songwriting so naturally that once you get into it, you know this is pure Badly Drawn Boy, filtered through the sound of 2020, and yes, it’s an absolute belter of an opening track, it gets your attention, draws you in and is a great piece of songwriting both lyrically and musically, and is incredibly playful throughout.
There’s so much to love about this album that it’s hard to know where to start, one of the stand out tracks is Tony Wilson Said, which is probably one of the most honest and most humorous homage to Manchester music legend (Factory records founder, Granada News Reporter and general all round Manchester Cheerleader) with a great tune and some fantastic lyrics that bring to mind every story ever told about Tony Wilson, and helps remind us all of the impact he made on both the Manchester and the National music scene, he dreamed big and achieved it, not unlike Damon Gough.
As comebacks go, (although we hadn’t really realised he’d been away) this is an absolute belter of a record, full of classic BDB moments like the beautiful You and Me against the World, Funny Time of Year and closing statement I’ll Do My Best.
To be honest, this is above and beyond doing your best, it’s a reminder (if any were necessary) as to how important and influential a songwriter Damon Gough is, and as to how timeless his work is, this slots perfectly into his discography alongside classics like Have you Fed the Fish? One ls One and Born in the UK, and its fantastic to finally hear some new music from Badly Drawn Boy.
His style of songwriting is effortless, and also timeless, which makes this album both contemporary (as in subject matter wise it could come from nowhere other than 2020) yet – with Damon’s innate songwriting ability and the fact he refuses to be tethered to any era – as timeless as any of his other releases. This isn’t really a comeback, more a welcome home, as the world needs music like this with its heart on its sleeve and its soul writ large running through it more than ever. Welcome back Damon, it’s been too long and it’s really good to hear you again.
❉ Badly Drawn Boy – ‘Banana Skin Shoes’ was released 22nd May 2020, via AWAL. Album order: https://
❉ James R. Turner is a music and media journalist. Over the last 25 years he has contributed to the Classic Rock Society magazine, BBC online, Albion Online, The Digital Fix, DPRP, Progarchy, ProgRadar and more. James’ debut book is out in September and he is head of PR for Bad Elephant Music. He lives in North Somerset with his fiancee Charlotte, their Westie Dilys & Ridgeback Freja, three cats and too many CDs, records & Blu-Rays.