Badly Drawn Boy–It’s What I’m Thinking, Pt. 1

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It’s been four year’s since Badly Drawn Boy’s (Damon Gough) last release, Born in the U.K.  Prior to that release, he had admitted going through a period where he lacked inspiration.  As that album gathered only passing interest, might the interim between releases suggest he has recovered his inspiration or collected, over time, a superior set of songs?

Alas, no.  As it turns out, his latest album came from a creative period during which he rushed to the studio to capture his inspirations, rather than refining good ideas later when he risked being flat.  This works for some, certainly.

BDB gained notice with his first release in 2000, Hour of Bewilderbeast, which remains one of my all time favorites.  If not a steady decline, his subsequent albums were comparatively a distant shadow of his first work.  Either the lyrics were ho-hum, the melodies sub par, or the instrumental mix too forced, but each paid homage to his greater work while falling noticeably short.  Both the critics and his audience noticed.  Even still, there were a few nuggets from album to album which pointed to a hope for something better next time.

It’s What I’m Thinking (Part One: Photographing Snowflakes) is a title that seems apt.  The lyrics do not seem to be overly word-smithed and read as if they might be an extenuation of whatever thoughts he had entering the studio.  They’re not embarrassingly shallow nor particularly enriching.  They might qualify as observational but not rising to the philosophical, or conversational without any intent of ever being spoken.  Lyrics are included in the CD, but they don’t really matter, because…

… they all fade away in the mist.  Or, rather, as soon as each song ends.  Why?  The first two songs are a fine example.  They can be viewed a couple of ways.  The charitable would suggest that BDB is restraining himself from his over-produced and over-complicated past errors, and this CD reflects a more mature approach that strips away the eclectic assault of any and all instruments in a studio.  Those opposed might offer that his vocal range is limited, he’s prone to use one of about 3 phrasings in all of his songs, and that the sparser instrumentation (keyboard orchestration and piano, mainly) only highlights the absence of memorable melodies. 

There are some decent melodies, and several decent songs (listed below) but when it’s all said and done, none of them fill an emotional need, echo any particular personal meaning, or strike the auditory nerves in such a pleasing manner that demands repeating.  Only “You Lied” might be considered a musical departure from the tried and tired, but, it too, doesn’t resonate.  The iPod doesn’t beg for anything here.

BDB has indicated that the next two phases of this proposed trilogy are likely to include a larger number of collaborators/artists.  That may help, or it may hinder. What he needs to focus on is finding the musical enthusiasm he first shared on Bewilderbeast.

Suggested Songs: “Too Many Miracles,” “I Saw You Walk Away,” “This Electric,” This Beautiful Idea”

2 of 5 STARS



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