November 23, 2006

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Badly Drawn Boy, Born in the UK
Astralwerks Records, 2006

One pass through Damon Gough’s new collection of piano-driven alt-pop doesn’t capture the essence of its extra-virgin song­writing oil, which, though not lighting the Whoa It’s The Next Elton John lamp, exhibits distinct shades of early Billy Joel that belie the bootlicking it’ll be receiving from second-string rubber-stamp hipster writers, some of whom have already contorted themselves into pretzels in desperate efforts to compare this to Tom Vek, whose suckage is legion. Last year, Gough, who’s already found a modicum of success with the soundtrack to About A Boy, gracefully abandoned all hope of making a useful album, canning 20-some-odd songs and putting Smiths/Blur producer Stephen Street on the unemployment rolls. This enabled him and his piano to start fresh, which isn’t as happily freeing to an artist as non-artists might think, thus there are melancholic undercurrents to the ELO bounciness of the title track and the “Someday Someway” hopefulness of “Degrees of Separation.” Gough’s voice conjures an overtired Bowie that isn’t quite up to the challenge his hooks present, leaving this album as a rough prequel to whatever greatness he’ll aim for in future. B-

— Eric W. Saeger