Badly Drawn Boy: Twice Around The Block

Badly Drawn Boy Returns

2000 witnessed Badly Drawn Boy’s quiet takeover of the world. And Damon Gough seemed just as surprised as anyone. “Hour of the Bewilderbeast,” his debut release under the BDB moniker, quickly conquered the fickle English press, and went on to take home that year’s coveted Mercury Prize. His music even made it into a Gap ad. It was easy to hear why. Gough’s long-form audio love letter to his lady seemed to babble out of the ground like an untapped spring in a bucolic mountain hideaway. But it wasn’t all fluffy sheep and sunny days. Mixing into Badly Drawn Boy’s stream of pop consciousness were deeper currents that suggested the roguish qualities of Gomez or maybe a less-amped Verve. And reports about his erratic, sometimes awesome live shows suggested that behind Gough’s shuffling, bearded exterior was a tightly-wound eccentric with quite a bit more to offer.


Gough’s back to prove it in 2002 with two releases. “About A Boy” is a ten-song cycle built around the film of the same name, which is in turn based on the book by Nick Hornby. Hornby, you’ll recall, is the novelist with a music fetish whose “High Fidelity” was turned into a movie starring Jon Cusack. But let’s get back to Gough. In her NME article concerning “About a Boy,” Victoria Segal describes Badly Drawn Boy’s downtempo antics as such: “[BDB] has taken the adjectives ‘melancholy’ and ‘bittersweet’ and ruined them for any other band.” Whew. A Bittersweet Symphony, indeed. But it’s true. Gough’s literate little love songs arch between the bleeding heart pop ditties of Travis and, well, the melancholy of Nick Drake. Imagine an overexposed Polaroid of a sunny day at the beach, and you’re getting close. By all accounts, Gough’s music for “About A Boy” continues in the same vein. It’s scheduled for a 4/23 release, but you can download the first single now.

According to, Gough’s other project is a full-fledged album currently being recorded in Los Angeles with producer Tom Rothrock, best known for his work with Beck and – what do you know? – Elliot Smith. In fact, Artist Direct Records has just signed a three-album licensing agreement with XL Recordings, Badly Drawn Boy’s UK label, for the domestic rights to BDB. This is a big step for the American startup, whose biggest act to date has been Everlast soundalike Custom. But the label is undoubtedly watching the continued success of Coldplay (as well as renewed US interest in Oasis), and licking their chops over the possibility that Badly Drawn Boy’s new material will break like “Bewilderbeast” did in the UK in 2000. And it just might. Increasingly, we are seeing a break from habit in American taste. After the success of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” subtitled long shots like “Brotherhood of the Wolf” and “Y Tu Mama Tambien” are receiving widespread – and successful – distribution. In music, the left-field success of Moby’s Play, as well as music industry square pegs The White Stripes, Jack Johnson, and Musique Soulchild suggests that the climate is right for music that’s not this or that – but the other – to make the money makers more money.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, listen to “Hour of the Bewilderbeast.” And hug a pal.


20 thoughts on “Badly Drawn Boy: Twice Around The Block”

  1. A friend of mine said recently “I can’t wait until a new Elliot Smith release comes along. Oh well, at least Badly Drawn Boy is coming out with something.”His stuff is wonderful.

  2. By the way, I’ve heard the BDB song you can download, “Something To Talk About,” and it’s really, really a great a song. I didn’t think of Elliott Smith until I read that comparison here, but now I can hear it. I own Bewilderbeast, but I never listen to it. That one song from the Gap is a great song, though, and landed on many mixes from me that year.

  3. Yeah, I love that one. It’s funny how commercials have been turning a lot of people on to non-commercial music these days. I first heard Low and their sparse version of “Little Drummer Boy” on a Gap commercial. Since then I’ve bought a bunch of their stuff. I you haven’t heard them, check the album Things We Lost In The Fire. The title track is pure beauty.

  4. Thanks, Johnny, for clarifying who that obscure author Nick Hornby is…I’m sure no one on this site has ever read High Fidelity ;)

  5. The funny thing is I’ll bet we each smirked while we read it and thought that the book was perfectly describing one of the other members of the GLONO team. “Oh, taht is totally Johnny…”

  6. That’s really funny! I didn’t even know the GloNo team back when I read High Fidelity, but maybe that’s why I like you guys so much!

  7. My Hornby clarification was preventive maintenance. If I didn’t mention that angle, some yahoo would write in saying I’m a jackass (jackanus) for NOT mentioning it. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  8. My man Vitas lent me the book right after it came out and told me I absolutely HAD to read it. I, of course, completely ignored him and let the book sit at the bottom of my ever-growing “to read” stack. Before the movie came out, Jolie heard Hornby on Fresh Air on NPR and rushed right out to the bookstore and bought me a copy. Only after I read it and saw the movie did I remember that Vit had lent me that book so long ago. When I finally gave it back to him, he told me that he had been yelling at one of his other friends for years, demanding that he return the goddamn book he lent him!

  9. Did I mention “High Fidelity” in the article because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I mentioned “High Fidelity” in the article?

  10. I guess I was one of those geeks who read High Fidelity way back when it came out, and then when they were making the movie, my boyfriend at the time lived at the corner of Milwaukee and Honore, and I was over at his place one day and saw a sign that that Disney was making a movie of “High Fidelity” starring John Cusack and I nearly flipped out…there was also the time I was waiting for a bus and saw this really cool looking record store, wondered why I had never been there, and then when it disappeared a few days later, realized it was part of the set…

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