|Badly Drawn Boy — It’s What I’m Thinking Pt.1 — Photographing Snowflakes|
Badly Drawn Boy — It’s What I’m Thinking Pt.1 — Photographing Snowflakes
♦ English singer–songwriter Damon Gough has been a popular exponent of low–fi indie since his 2000 debut. The Hour of the Bewilderbeast won Mercury Prize in 2000.
Born: October 2, 1969 in Dunstable, Lancashire
Location: Bolton, Greater Manchester ~ Manchester, England
Album release: October 04 2010
Record Label: One Last Fruit
01 In Safe Hands 4:01
02 The Order of Things 5:13
03 Too Many Miracles 3:44
04 What Tomorrow Brings 3:44
05 I Saw You Walk Away 5:29
06 It’s What I’m Thinking 6:26
07 You Lied 3:05
08 A Pure Accident 3:53
09 This Electric 4:18
10 This Beautiful Idea 4:41
Producer: Stephen Hilton
Album Moods: Ambitious Autumnal Bittersweet Indulgent Playful Quirky Whimsical Witty Wry
Themes: Autumn Early Morning Hanging Out Introspection Long Walk Playful Reflection Road Trip The Creative Side
♦ Leo Abrahams Guitar
♦ Che Beresford Drums
♦ Natalia Bonner Violin
♦ Ian Burdge Cello
♦ Eos Chater Violin
♦ Reiad Chibah Viola
♦ Ollie Collins Bass
♦ Caroline Dale Cello
♦ Matt Dunkley Arranger
♦ English Session Orchestra Strings
♦ Geoff Foster Engineer
♦ Stephen Fretwell Bass, Guitar
♦ Damon Gough Composer, Photography
♦ Gareth Griffiths Violin
♦ Stephen Hilton Engineer, Mixing, Noise, Producer, Sampling, Synthesizer
♦ Woodrow Wilson Jackson III Guitar, Percussion
♦ Dom Kelly Contractor
♦ Seadna McPhail Engineer
♦ Maxine Moore Viola
♦ Everton Nelson Leader
♦ Tim Parry Management
♦ Kerenza Peacock Violin
♦ Mary Scully Double Bass
♦ Jay Sikora Drums
♦ Vince Sipprell String Arrangements, Strings
♦ Emma Smith String Arrangements, Strings
♦ Jazz Summers Management
♦ Christopher Tombling Violin
♦ Mike TV Effects, Guitar, Guitar (Electric)
♦ Andy Votel Artwork
♦ Nigel Walton Mastering
♦ Bruce White Viola
♦ Chris Worsey Cello
Damon Gough has become the epitome of new folk conformity.
Mark Beaumont 2010
♠ It’s bizarre to think, now, that Badly Drawn Boy was once considered rebellious. He was the anti–image folk provocateur who made an hour–long debut of esoteric and adventurous noise in 2000, The Hour of Bewilderbeast. A decade on, usurped by more imaginative strumbling upstarts such as Bright Eyes, Sufjan Stevens and Jamie T, he’s the epitome of new folk conformity: the Richard Curtis of the acoustic guitar and laptop. It’s virtually impossible to think of him without picturing Hugh Grant failing to relate to a pre–teen.
♠ This seventh studio album — you mean you failed to notice the last five as well? — will do little to reverse his reputation for the anodyne. Drum machines crunch inoffensively, cheap beats are employed, and if the strings on Too Many Miracles aren’t actually synthesised, great lengths have been taken to ensure they sound like it. Where once Damon Gough seemed to be pushing folk music into colourful new sonic spheres, here he retreats into lo–fi security and recalls little so much as Stephen Duffy’s lush 80s acoustic combo The Lilac Time. His vocal timbre is similarly feather–light and dreamy, his lyrics appropriately vacuous: I’m tired of dreaming of what tomorrow brings” he croons on What Tomorrow Brings, while in The Order of Things he complains “Birds in the sky steal my melodies”. Yeah, and how high is that sky, eh Damon? My oh my…
♠ The Lilac Time, however, boasted deeply affecting melodies that unravelled gradually, rewarding repeated listening immeasurably. It’s What I’m Thinking Pt 1 boasts a few such moments. The aforementioned Too Many Miracles is a soulful strut that, with its Motown throwbacks, might be a stab at the Plan B/Winehouse dollar, while A Pure Accident is sublime shoegaze folk that effortlessly surpasses much of Gough’s more recent material. Sadly, much of the rest conforms to a malaise that’s afflicted him since 2002’s Have You Fed the Fish?: repetitive tracks consisting of one looping half-melody that outstays its welcome by several months. The title-track here is a prime example: six and a half minutes that aims for White Album languor and hits the drearier end of Red House Painters.
♠ That this is only part one of an undefined album cycle suggests further self-indulgence to stretch our patience is in the pipeline. On the evidence of this record’s title-track, one half expects BDB to put out exactly the same album again twice more, but with different lyrics. Not that you’d really notice.
Review by Heather Phares; Score: ***½
♠ Following the mixed reception of his ambitious 2006 album Born in the U.K., Badly Drawn Boy’s Damon Gough retreated from the studio, returning only in 2009 when the writers of The Fattest Man in Britain asked him to write songs for the TV show’s soundtrack. Being obligated to make music reignited Gough’s creativity, leading him to create a proposed trilogy of albums that started with It’s What I'm Thinking, Pt 1: Photographing Snowflakes. This return to the studio is also something of a return to form for Gough, who sounds more intimate and philosophical on these songs than he has since The Hour of Bewilderbeast. Badly Drawn Boy has done remarkable things with little more than an acoustic guitar, a drum machine and Gough’s words, and songs such as “In Safe Hands” and “The Order of Things” serve as a reminder that many of his best songs sound like conversations set to music. Musically speaking, most of It’s What I’m Thinking, Pt. 1 keeps it simpler than Gough has in some time; even the tracks bedecked with strings and timpani don’t sound overcooked, and he stays close to the delicate folktronic territory that made his name, venturing only as far out as “You Lied”’s chilly soft rock and “I Saw You Walk Away”’s soulful pop. Thematically, however, things are more complex. True to the album’s title, Gough is thoughtful on these songs, meditating on memories and the bigness and smallness of life on songs like “Too Many Miracles” and “What Tomorrow Brings,” where he tries to balance thinking about the future and the present. Failure and fear are significant themes (particularly on the title track, where Gough disguises some of his harshest words with sleepy slide guitars) and indeed, It’s What I’m Thinking, Pt. 1 sometimes sounds a little tentative. It's not until the album's final two tracks that Gough reconnects fully with his muse: On “This Electric,” he's “chasin’ all miracles” with the idealistic, confessional sweetness of his best work, a feeling that continues into “This Beautiful Idea,” which counters the melancholy feel of much of the album with hope and discovery. Though It’s What I’m Thinking, Pt. 1 finds Badly Drawn Boy still getting back on his feet, it has enough encouraging moments for fans to stick around until he hits his full stride.
♠ “He’s the Chorlton–cum–Springsteen anti–superstar” — Paul Morley
♠ Has it really been a decade?
♠ It feels a lot longer.
♠ It feels like yesterday.
♠ It was June 2000 when the Mercury-winning, seminal The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, announced the arrival of the badly drawn genius of Damon Gough. It's been a curious, wonderful, inimitable, unpredictable decade of major prizes and minor incidents, all possibilities and pissing in the wind, at the end of which we find Gough starting the new decade as he did the last… at a creative peak, and back on his own label.
♠ "It feels like a new beginning in a lot of ways," nods a refreshed and revitalised Gough over a pint in a Manchester beer garden, "it definitely feels like I'm on a roll."
♠ Penning the soundtrack to last year’s Caroline Aherne film The Fattest Man in Britain sparked a period of unprecedented creativity for Gough, resulting in a wealth of great new songs. Invigorated and inspired by the approach of artists like mid-period Bob Dylan or Neil Young, who would go into the studio to record an album when the songs were flowing, rather than when the music industry cycle dictated to them, Gough decided the best way to capture this surge, and give the songs the exposure they deserved was to release a trilogy of albums. "I've got such a wealth of ideas I want to work on," explains Gough. "and intrinsically, as a creative person, you don't want to switch off the flow of ideas, because that's what keeps you ticking."
♠ The trilogy is called It's What I'm Thinking — "It's just a wry comment on the fact that that's all I'm doing, just writing the songs, and within the songs is what I'm thinking" — and the subheading of the first album is Photographing Snowflakes. "I was having a drink one night with some friends and someone said 'What do you think is the hardest job ever?'" explains Gough, "and to me it's got to be photographing snowflakes. It's impossible. People do it but I've no idea how they do it." It's also an analogy for what Gough wants to achieve with this trilogy, grabbing those moments or songs that come from nowhere and capturing the moment. Photographing snowflakes.
♠ Through the falling snowflakes of the first album the picture that emerges of Badly Drawn Boy coming to terms with a new maturity — "Throw me to the lions, make me a man" he sings on The Order Of Things, and "All I ask is you treat me like a man" on You Lied — and a period of reflection and reevaluation. "Well for a while I thought it was amazing, and I still think you're the one" he explains on A Pure Accident, "I know you will forgive me, for the things that I've done wrong, I'm sorry I never liked your favourite song."
♠ Being back on his own label, and working closer again with longtime collaborator Andy Votel, has also reenergised Gough. "It feels like everything has reconnected to what I'm doing." Having originally made his name on Twisted Nerve, the label he founded in the late 90s with Votel, there feels a certain synchronicity with Gough, having spent much of the decade on major labels, being back on his own label. “I don’t want to slag off major labels,” he stresses, but with the industry going through a period of flux, “things have almost by default come back to my way of thinking.”
|Badly Drawn Boy — It’s What I’m Thinking Pt.1 — Photographing Snowflakes|