Monday, November 12, 2007

Music to be Trapped in a Van With - Badly Drawn Boy's "The Hour of Bewilderbeast"

The Hour of BewilderbeastI had the pleasure of inflicting this record on a captive audience on a long drive home from Thanksgiving dinner. I should really have known better - this usually turns out to be a disaster, for everyone but me, that is. But for once, it was a hit.
His name is Damon Gough. He’s a Scottish singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist who goes under the name of Badly Drawn Boy. You may know him from the soundtrack to “About a Boy”, but this is the one that put him on the map. What map, you ask? Okay, that’s a fair question, so just work with me on this…
If you’re going to have a strange name, maybe you should play it safe with the title of your debut album. So maybe calling it “The Hour of Bewilderbeast” isn’t the way to go. It gives the overall impression that the music will be... challenging. You know the kind I mean - the sometimes painful, but ultimately enriching type. In other words, it’s work - something that will make you a better person. No fun.
Well, not to worry. This is one of the most enjoyable albums of the decade. Tuneful from the get go, it’s an hour very well spent indeed. The songwriting is consistently excellent, and the instrumentation and pace are varied enough to keep any boredom from setting in. In case that’s not enough, he throws in sound effects between the songs, abruptly ends them, or even starts new ones right in the middle of others, just to keep you on your toes.
Things start off gently, with the cello, French horn and acoustic guitar of “The Shining” - a beautiful ballad. But before you can say wimp, the drums and guitar of “Everybody’s Stalking” kick in. BDB takes us from the contemplative to the rousing and then back again. “Magic in the Air” reminds me of Burt Bacharach. “Pissing in the Wind” (yup, you heard me) is full of heart and soul, “Disillusion” sounds like a hit from the 70s. Even the theme tune is great.
BDB plays most of the instruments on the record, and if you find the last two songs to be a little slow, it’s probably because he’s ready to drop from exhaustion. Damon counts Bruce Springsteen amongst his influences, but I hear the Beatles, circa the White Album. Damon’s not quite in that league, but then again, there’s only one of him.
This record will always remind me of that Thanksgiving drive home. After a rough year, “Bewilderbeast” music gave everyone in the van an hour of great pleasure, and many more after that.

Now playing: Badly Drawn Boy - Magic in the Air
via FoxyTunes

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