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Badly Drawn Boy Is There Nothing We Could Do? Review

Soundtrack. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Damon Gough returns with his second soundtrack collection.

Tom Hocknell 2009

Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, returns three years after his last album, Born in the UK, with a low-key release which also comprises his second full soundtrack following 2002’s About a Boy.

Despite enjoying significant press attention around the release of 2000 debut The Hour of Bewilderbeast, which won the Mercury Prize, Gough’s star has waned of late. But this is not due to any dip in songwriting ability, and looking at the alternative popscape his influence can be clearly seen in several artists, from Jamie T to Jack Peñate.

The soundtrack to Caroline Aherne’s film The Fattest Man In Britain, Is There Nothing We Could Do? seems to summarise Gough’s thoughts on the topic through its title alone. With a song like All the Trimmings unlikely to have been an off-cut from previous albums, this collection is intrinsically linked to the film, and is far better than the soundtrack to an ITV1 drama should be. Gough’s surprise at Aherne’s request is mentioned in the sleeve notes, along with confirmation that he enjoyed the experience.

And it shows, Gough’s enthusiasm shining through in this material. Subdued instrumentalism and strings rule, and his great talent of crafting shambling songs seemingly patched together through chance, love and passion is evident. The sequencing incorporates film dialogue well, without said clips ever clashing with the music beside them.

Gough’s svelte melodies belie the sad core of his best songs, as with earlier albums. The title track rasps sad romanticism over gentle piano and is so effective it receives a reprise – effectively an unrequested, though not unwelcome, encore. Just Look at Us Now is equally affecting, with lilting trumpet leading its charge. If there is fault that necessitates noting, it’s that some songs threaten to fade out too soon, while others barely leave the ground. 

If the music is this touching without pictures, the film is sure to triumph. And even taken out of context, as a standalone work, this set whets appetites for next year’s new Badly Drawn Boy album proper.

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