Badly Drawn Boy

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Badly Drawn Boy

About a Boy (BMG) Exactly why the endearing pop charms of Mancunian songsmith Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy) have failed to catch on stateside remains one of life's more exquisite mysteries. His first full-length album, 2000's Hour of the Bewilderbeast, ably stole the limelight from Coldplay and former Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft at that year's Mercury Music Prize fête, although that Brit equivalent of our own Grammies has traditionally made little impact on the American record-buying public. Their loss. This 16-song soundtrack to the Hugh Grant-starring Nick Hornby adaptation is a blissful summery popgasm, retaining the Nick Drake-on-sunshine appeal of Bewilderbeast, while substituting a more acoustic-based approach to the previous album's cagey electronics. Split between brief but appealing soundtrack fillers, and full-fledged goose pimplers like the breathy, Sixties-era "File Me Away," About a Boy is that rarest of bewildering beasties, the soundtrack that stands by itself. You needn't see the film to appreciate what BDB has done here. The album moves from the lilting bounce of "Something to Talk About" to the funky, hand-clapping, brass-infused jounce of "S.P.A.T.," with those aforementioned micro-tracks acting as a sort of emotional bridge between the swim 'n' sway of more boisterous bits. For die-hard fans of Hornby's books like myself, the best thing about BDB's soundtrack is that, above all, it feels like a proper score for the author's words, and that's a tough one to pull off for any songwriter. Even if there were no film adaptation of About a Boy, this collection of breezy, easy tracks could just as easily lull you to drowsing as Hornby's novel slips chestward on a sunny Sunday afternoon spent in your favorite reading chair, a warm Guinness at your side.

*** .5

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