Badly Drawn Boy – It’s What I’m Thinking Part 1: Photographing Snowflakes

October 4, 2010 by  

A decade or so ago Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, produced one of the albums of the year, or even the decade, with his expansive and experimental opener The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, and in turn was awarded the coveted Mercury Music Prize. In the subsequent years Gough seem to frustratingly flit between mediocre follow-ups, spell binding soundtracks and meandering performances.

It became clear a break was needed. After a three year hiatus, BDB returned to pen the soundtrack to last year’s Caroline Aherne film The Fattest Man in Britain. During this time, Gough wrote a trilogy of albums called ‘It’s What I’m Thinking’. Not quite billed as a triptych, the trio of works are to be released independently, with the first being ‘Part 1 – Photographing Snowflakes’.

‘Photographing Snowflakes’ finds Gough touching familiar ground, but not pushing the boundaries of production as much he did on his début or showcasing his full song-writing potential. Instead the album has a sombre and at times confessional tone, permeated by his anguishes and yearning for a brighter future.

Opener ‘In Safe Hands’ clearly sets the tone of the album. Gough’s hushed, echoed Manchester droll laments over a bed of acoustic strings and guitars, which at first fail to leap of the stylus but after a few more spins draw the listener in. It’s within this state much of the album remains. Gough’s eclectic production tastes add the odd extra dimension, but too often the album is frustratingly indirect. Perhaps this serves to bring the lyrics to the fore, but for the casual listener it may prove to be too passive to pull them into his world.

However, it’s not all a downbeat affair. Lead single ‘Too Many Miracles’ is an uplifting nod to The Byrds’ ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, and swiftly reminds you of what made Gough such a respected songwriter. Add to this the rousing ‘What Tomorrow Brings’ and the groove of ‘I saw You Walk Away’, there are hints that Gough is close to returning to the song-writing form that made his début album. Unfortunately, ‘Photographing Snowflakes’ falls just short of that.

Yet, despite not possessing the impact and song-writing prowess of some of Gough’s earlier works, scratch away at the surface and there is a compelling album to be found. With two more albums to come from BDB in quick succession, things should be alright in the Gough camp once again, just as long as he continues to rediscover his form that is.

[rating:3.5]


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