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Alternative & Indie - Released September 6, 1999 | XL Recordings

Distinctions Lauréat du Mercury Prize
What has the field of lo-fi slacker pop come to when faced by an LP as ambitious and entertaining as Badly Drawn Boy's The Hour of Bewilderbeast? Despite all attempts to sabotage his songwriting and production with innumerable experimental tidbits, songs within a song, and (seemingly) tossed-off arrangements, Damon Gough has to face the fact that he wrote and produced over a dozen excellent songs of baroque folk-pop for his album debut, and the many gems can't help but shine through all the self-indulgence. The sprightly orchestration for cello and trumpet (Gough's own) that begin the album are eventually taken over by the sparse guitar pickings and wistful folky sunshine of "The Shining," which veers into the skewed slide guitar and ominous tone of "Everybody's Stalking." Gough rarely pauses for breath (even when he's doing a ballad) or follows any traditional sense of album flow, but after a listen or two, The Hour of Bewilderbeast is revealed as a shambling masterpiece of a pop album. Most of these songs are Gough's entirely (he plays as many as eight instruments), with occasional help from friends like Twisted Nerve co-labelhead Andy Votel and assorted drummers for accompaniment. His songwriting is great, but Gough's twisted sense of humor helps the album shine as well, as on "Fall in a River," where the down-a-lazy-river feel carries through to the point where not just Gough but the entire production is submerged with a splash and attendant warping of the sound. The Hour of Bewilderbeast surely isn't a traditional pop album, but a continually beguiling trip through lo-fi postmodern folk that draws as much from Harry Nilsson as Beck. © John Bush /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 22, 2020 | One Last Fruit

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Alternative & Indie - Released September 2, 2002 | XL Recordings

If you count Damon Gough's About a Boy soundtrack as the second Badly Drawn Boy album -- and the caliber of its songs make a strong case for it to be treated as such -- then it seems that the sophomore slump has skipped a generation, ignoring About a Boy and affecting Have You Fed the Fish? instead. Interestingly, the boundaries placed on Gough's style by working on a soundtrack didn't impact his music as much as the limits he sets for himself do here -- on the surface, Have You Fed the Fish? is Badly Drawn Boy's most focused and polished set of songs to date. For most artists, this would be a good development, but on this album at least, it's a poor fit. On his best work, Gough's intricate, lilting melodies, quirky but heartfelt lyrics, and offbeat production touches are woven together as tightly as the knitted caps he wears, but on Have You Fed the Fish? it feels like he forces his sound to straighten out, and the brilliance displayed on The Hour of Bewilderbeast and About a Boy unravels. The album's main problem is its glossy production, which adds an unwelcome, brassy sheen to even the most seemingly heartfelt songs, such as "You Were Right," which features the line "I'm turning Madonna down/And I'm calling it my best move." Actually, this lyric encapsulates many of Have You Fed the Fish?'s drawbacks at once -- it's trying to be quirky and yet mainstream at the same time, it's initially cute and yet a little too clever-clever to really make an impact. Songs like the jangly, off-kilter funk of "Using Our Feet," the title track, and "40 Days, 40 Fights" suffer from these problems, and indeed, most of the album feels strangely overblown. Not coincidentally, the shorter songs and vignettes that dot Have You Fed the Fish? reveal more of Badly Drawn Boy's strengths -- the delicate, acoustic "I Was Wrong," the lush instrumental "Centerpeace," and the sweet, Lennon-y love song "Instrumental Lines" recall the dazzling, kaleidoscopic beauty of The Hour of Bewilderbeast. It's not that Have You Fed the Fish? is vastly inferior to Gough's debut so much as it's an unbalanced and ultimately frustrating album. For every misstep there are successes like the witty funk-pop of "The Further I Slide" and "All Possibilities," which blends disco strings and mariachi horns into a bittersweet yet uplifting gem. "How" is a searching ballad that features the motion, emotion, and surprises that define Gough's best work, and recalls the self-reflexive style of singer/songwriters like Don McLean and Elton John to boot; "What Is It Now?" is a quintessential, if overproduced, Badly Drawn Boy single. Since The Hour of Bewilderbeast both introduced Gough's style and expressed it so perfectly, the stakes are higher for all of his subsequent work. About a Boy proved that he can tailor his approach for more mainstream audiences, but by trying to be both more mainstream and quirkier than Badly Drawn Boy's previous work, Have You Fed the Fish? attempts to fix something that wasn't broken in the first place. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 8, 2002 | XL Recordings

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 5, 2004 | XL Recordings

After the concise About a Boy soundtrack and the overdone Have You Fed the Fish?, Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy) still seems to be searching for balance on his fourth album, One Plus One Is One. Even the album's name contains conflicting wishes for simplicity and multiplicity, along with suggesting a relationship's theory of mathematics. Most of the songs here revolve around love's simplicities and complexities in settings that range from unadorned to elaborate. One Plus One Is One starts out simple and strong, with the title track, "Easy Love," and the Jethro Tull-esque (but in a good way) "Summertime in Wintertime" cataloging some of the additions and subtractions in Gough's life while sounding like late summer in the English countryside. Songs like these and the lovely "This Is That New Song" may get Badly Drawn Boy fans' hopes up that this is the album they've been waiting for since The Hour of Bewilderbeast. One Plus One Is One does have some of the seemingly effortless grace of Gough's will o' the wisp tour de force, but unlike that album, this set of songs feels more grounded and, like most of his work after About a Boy, the heavy lifting in his music is more apparent. As the album unfolds, it gets increasingly baroque, meandering, and logy; not only are there overly lavish Have You Fed the Fish? flashbacks like "Take the Glory" and "Holy Grail," songs that are otherwise successfully simple, such as "Logic of a Friend," are tricked out with unnecessarily busy arrangements. Certainly, choices like the kids choir on "Year of the Rat" -- not to mention lyrics like "If we hold on, we can find some new energy" -- are easy targets, but in this case, Gough manages to pull off the kind of vulnerable, wide-eyed optimism that usually gets short shrift in the too-cool-for-school indie world. Still, it's arguable whether or not these more grandiose songs have more impact than beautifully succinct ones like "Fewer Words" and "Four Leaf Clover." The U.S. version of One Plus One Is One further gilds the lily with two bonus tracks, the well-intended but undernourished "Don't Ask Me I'm Only the President" and the musically hyperactive "Plan B," both of which pad the album out to over an hour. Gough's music seems to be undergoing the usual growing pains of moving beyond a landmark work, and a landmark debut in particular; it's possible that he's moving into the craftsman phase of his career, refining the territory he's already staked out instead of claiming more. There are times when One Plus One Is One is simply too much, and the fresh spin that Gough brought to the British singer/songwriter tradition in his earlier work is missed, but he's still a fine addition to it. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 16, 2006 | Parlophone UK

After a bout with writer's block left most of what would have been the fifth Badly Drawn Boy album on the scrap heap, Damon Gough regrouped by writing a set of songs inspired by growing up in the United Kingdom. The results are Born in the U.K., an album that, of course, nods to Bruce Springsteen's rousing-yet-searching Born in the U.S.A. (the Boss is also thanked in the liner notes), but also feels like it's trying to win -- and impress -- as big an audience as possible. At times, Born in the U.K. is impressive, but not necessarily with its most ambitious moments. After the relatively restrained One Plus One Is One, Gough returns to the elaborate, heavily arranged sound of Have You Fed the Fish? for most of the album, and too often, his words and melodies end up drowning in their busy surroundings. "Nothing's Gonna Change Your Mind" is a particularly unfortunate casualty, a song with good bones that's done in by strings that are somehow massive and fussy at the same time. Meanwhile, "Welcome to the Overground," with its huge choir and equally giant guitars and pianos, sounds like it was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber instead of Badly Drawn Boy. To be fair, Gough does harness the album's widescreen sound effectively at times: "Degrees of Separation" is the closest Born in the U.K. comes to clearly elaborating on its concept, setting memories of the Thatcher era to rock that nods to "God Save the Queen," both the national anthem and the punk anthem. "Journey from A to B" is another standout that makes the most of its Springsteen and Phil Spector homages. As the album unfolds, Gough seems to get his footing; it's as though he spends the first half of the album trying to wow his audience but only proves impressive once he gets rid of the pretense. Enough of Born in the U.K.'s second half works well that it makes the album's early missteps even more mystifying: "Walk You Home Tonight"'s hints of blue-eyed soul and Motown nail the sophisticated but accessible sound that Gough strains for in other places, as do "The Way Things Used to Be"'s slight country twang and "Long Way Round (Swimming Pool)"'s Burt Bacharach-style pop. Still, it's more than a little odd that Gough keeps trying this grandiose direction, when the smaller, more idiosyncratic, far more personal sound of The Hour of Bewilderbeast and About a Boy won him fans in the first place. Even though Gough intended Born in the U.K. for a wider audience, it's likely that only the most devoted Badly Drawn Boy fans will enjoy -- or have the patience for -- the attempts at epics here. His voice and songwriting are so engaging that they don't need to be propped up by impressive-seeming arrangements. As with Have You Fed the Fish? and One Plus One Is One, Born in the U.K. is at its best when Gough shares something personal, instead of writing for an audience of "everybody" that doesn't actually exist. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released March 20, 2020 | One Last Fruit

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 3, 2010 | One Last Fruit

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. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Soundtracks - Released February 28, 2012 | Lakeshore Records

Singer/songwriter Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy) and director Paul Weitz captured lightning in a bottle in 2002 with the award-winning film About a Boy. Fueled by Gough's skewed yet emotional pop songs, it made Badly Drawn Boy a critical darling. Being Flynn, an adaptation of author Nick Flynn's memoirs Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, finds the pair reuniting in 2012 for a second go-round, and the results are pretty much the same. Once again, Gough's simple melodies and soulful delivery provide an emotional core from which the film draws to help illuminate its more poignant moments. Peppered throughout with impressionistic piano and string-laden instrumentals that feel like faded postcards from the '70s, it works surprisingly well as a stand-alone record, requiring little in the way of plot knowledge to be enjoyed as is. Less quirky than About a Boy, but maintaining an undercurrent of whimsy that helps cut through the at times overly earnest, sunset indie folk of songs like "Let It Rain" and "I'll Keep the Things You Throw Away," Being Flynn exudes warmth like a favorite old coat, even if it smells a little funky. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 23, 2004 | XL Recordings

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 21, 2003 | XL Recordings

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Rock - Released October 16, 2006 | Parlophone UK

After a bout with writer's block left most of what would have been the fifth Badly Drawn Boy album on the scrap heap, Damon Gough regrouped by writing a set of songs inspired by growing up in the United Kingdom. The results are Born in the U.K., an album that, of course, nods to Bruce Springsteen's rousing-yet-searching Born in the U.S.A. (the Boss is also thanked in the liner notes), but also feels like it's trying to win -- and impress -- as big an audience as possible. At times, Born in the U.K. is impressive, but not necessarily with its most ambitious moments. After the relatively restrained One Plus One Is One, Gough returns to the elaborate, heavily arranged sound of Have You Fed the Fish? for most of the album, and too often, his words and melodies end up drowning in their busy surroundings. "Nothing's Gonna Change Your Mind" is a particularly unfortunate casualty, a song with good bones that's done in by strings that are somehow massive and fussy at the same time. Meanwhile, "Welcome to the Overground," with its huge choir and equally giant guitars and pianos, sounds like it was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber instead of Badly Drawn Boy. To be fair, Gough does harness the album's widescreen sound effectively at times: "Degrees of Separation" is the closest Born in the U.K. comes to clearly elaborating on its concept, setting memories of the Thatcher era to rock that nods to "God Save the Queen," both the national anthem and the punk anthem. "Journey from A to B" is another standout that makes the most of its Springsteen and Phil Spector homages. As the album unfolds, Gough seems to get his footing; it's as though he spends the first half of the album trying to wow his audience but only proves impressive once he gets rid of the pretense. Enough of Born in the U.K.'s second half works well that it makes the album's early missteps even more mystifying: "Walk You Home Tonight"'s hints of blue-eyed soul and Motown nail the sophisticated but accessible sound that Gough strains for in other places, as do "The Way Things Used to Be"'s slight country twang and "Long Way Round (Swimming Pool)"'s Burt Bacharach-style pop. Still, it's more than a little odd that Gough keeps trying this grandiose direction, when the smaller, more idiosyncratic, far more personal sound of The Hour of Bewilderbeast and About a Boy won him fans in the first place. Even though Gough intended Born in the U.K. for a wider audience, it's likely that only the most devoted Badly Drawn Boy fans will enjoy -- or have the patience for -- the attempts at epics here. His voice and songwriting are so engaging that they don't need to be propped up by impressive-seeming arrangements. As with Have You Fed the Fish? and One Plus One Is One, Born in the U.K. is at its best when Gough shares something personal, instead of writing for an audience of "everybody" that doesn't actually exist. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 10, 2002 | XL Recordings

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 23, 1999 | XL Recordings

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 12, 2010 | The End Records

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. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 24, 2020 | One Last Fruit

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 29, 1999 | XL Recordings

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EP3

Alternative & Indie - Released November 12, 1998 | XL Recordings

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 8, 2002 | XL Recordings