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This review was first published on CLUAS in 2000
Other albums reviewed in 2000

Badly Drawn Boy

A review of the album 'The Hour of The Bewilderbeast'

It is perhaps no accident that Darren Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, has released his awaited debut 'The Hour of The Bewilderbeast' just as Nick Drake has been transformed into a musical icon with his own tribute album. Each are the acceptable face of that much derided musical heritage - English folk music. Just as Drake did in the 70s, Gough has produced music of delicate, bewitching, lilting beauty.

Cover of Badly Drawn Boy's album 'The Hour of the Wilderbeast'Opening with "The Shining", a tremulous herald of trumpet, piano and acoustic guitar, the album meanders along its 18-song journey. Is it deliberate that the next four songs ("Fall In The River", "Camping Next To Water", "Stone On The Water" and "Another Pearl") allude to the ebb and flow of water and life? Whatever the concept, each one is lovely. The myriad of styles from Lennonesque piano in "Magic In The Air", to jazz and hazy country confound the listener by being profoundly contemporary and poppy. Gough's voice is not as fey as Drake's but is hushed and pure and melodic.

There is an air of mythical romance about it all - from the beautiful artwork, the enigmatic name, the wistful instrumentals that pepper the album. Gough teases his audience, burying his vocal in a smoky maze so we strain to hear. And then, unconsciously, you find yourself grasping for the melody later and you just can't wait to hear it again.

In this age of melancholic music (Travis, Coldplay, Radiohead), Badly Drawn Boy's rise to the forefront of British pop with such entrancing ease will become urban pop myth. How did this Mancunian Springsteen fanatic become such a beacon? Maybe this record will get the audience it deserves as it has been short-listed for the annual Mercury Music prize. Current indie darlings, Coldplay, have been installed as favourite with their debut, "Parachutes" nestling at the top of the charts but the smart money is on the Badly Drawn Boy to walk away with the award. And the plaudits.

Stephen McNulty

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