Badly Drawn Boy
In a world where the prolific are seen as freaks and consistency is frowned upon (people like to think of musicians lost, scrabbling pitifully on the ground then rising again- it makes for good copy) Badly Drawn Boy (AKA Damon Gough) is mighty hard to deal with. But there�s something else. For Damon is not only consistent and prolific (his last two records, The About A Boy Soundtrack and Have You Fed The Fish? were released just seven months apart) he is, as a writer, still in the ascendant.
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The piano and guitar parts on One Plus One Is One will have you asking if our unassuming hero is really the author of almost all you hear. And the passionately positive lyrical themes will, allied to tunes you swear are so classic they must have come from some ancient mother-lode, have you smiling. Damon�s music finds the innocent in everyone and disarms time and time again.
Badly Drawn Boy began work in June 2003 at Stockport England�s Moolah Rouge Studios. Damon had decided he wanted to be nearer to his home for the making of this LP, as most of Have You Fed The Fish was put together in Los Angeles. Moolah Rouge is just a 15-minute cab ride from his house. You don�t get jetlag during the journey from his home outside of Manchester to Stockport. And you get to see your kids now and again. These things were important.
One Plus One Is One is a simpler and more spacious record than the micro detailed Fish. It was meant to be that way. Sure there are some sonic shenanigans and a playfulness that speaks of the relaxed atmosphere this record was created in, but it stands or falls on the quality of the songs. It stands. One Plus One Is One is fundamentally organic and computer free. It has the space and darkness of Gainsbourg�s Melody Nelson, the pagan folkiness of Paul Giovanni�s Wicker Man soundtrack, and the universal positivity of Jesus Christ Superstar. It�s that ambitious and it connects- with songs about passing on good fortune, looking after your friends, encouraging the basic humanity in all of us, and always finding the love that makes us more than monkeys.
�It�s still about relationships but not so much about just me and Claire this time, it�s about wider friendships. I�m asking people not to wish their lives away. But most of the time, through the songs, I�m telling myself these things. I can be quite a dark person, a born worrier, and I think that sometimes these songs are a message to myself to see the brighter side. The last album was thematic too but borne mostly out of the frustrations of being away from home. For this record I was at home and now it seems I�m looking out at the world from there, � explains Damon.
�One Plus One Is One� begins the record and is, unbelievably, one of the first songs Damon ever wrote. It starts gently and lifts into an effortless excellence. This is easily enough to make you stay. But you are not ready for the brooding �Easy Love�, where Damon�s voice reveals a real quality that�s always been there but was sometimes masked by distractions.
�Summertime In Wintertime� is, relatively, the record�s most raucous moment. A plea for patience and advice that encourages us all to enjoy the moment and stop wishing our lives away. A breathy flute part speaks of the input of producer Andy Votel. �This Is That New Song� emerges, even on first listen, as a crowning achievement. Heartfelt and moving it's laced with the kind of a confidence no musician has a right to have four or so years into his career.
�Another Devil Dies� contains a beautiful arrangement, which underlines Damon�s uniquely disarming ability to strip away all the crap and find the soul beneath the surface of any subject. �The Blossoms� is another pagan instrumental excursion, which speaks of autumn in the English countryside.
�Year Of The Rat� is epic - a song with the unquestionable ability to revive a man who might think there�s no point in rising another day. The kids� chorus sends a shiver up your spine. �Four Leaf Clover� continues the mood of positivity. It will make you ask why more people don�t think about giving up the gloom as it attempts to lift us all higher.
�Fewer Words� is Damon�s own favorite, the work of a skilled operative who can now hone his thoughts and music down to an intense minute or so of fuss free magic. �Logic Of A Friend� features the most divine harmonies, a lot of changes and startles simply because, ten tracks in, we have yet to encounter any filler. Stockport is a treacly dark, and deceivingly complex instrumental homage to the town Andy Votel and Damon have many family links with. The spirit of Vince Guaraldi is here.
�Life Turned Upside Down� convincingly unpretentious and (without pastiche or even mimicry) Lennon-esque. �Take The Glory� is beautiful and mysterious and organic. The record closes with a new English spiritual, Holy Grail so affecting and instantly recognizable that you'll swear you must have sung it in a church as a child. The kids� choir is here again and the words are simply dripping with the thematic concerns of humanity and positivity. As it ebbs and flows and then spirals out of sight, obscured by some strange Hoover symphony.
All much more than we could ever have hoped for. As always.
So, these are the headlines: Damon Gough is still the best songwriter in Britain. Taking real risks with the song format, inch by inch he moves it forward into new uncharted territories. Crucially, he succeeds.
The US release of One Plus One Is One will include the bonus tracks, �Don�t Ask Me I�m Only The President� and �Plan B�.
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