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Badly Drawn Boy: One Plus One is One

Badly Drawn Boy: One Plus One is One

Genre:Singer/Songwriter (Rock/Pop)

By Robbie Whelan | Posted 8/4/2004

Manchester, England, native Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, has so far been an utterly dismissible songwriter. He’s that high-school pothead who wore a grungy knit cap and wrote optimistic hippy poetry that was far too easy to parody and too bad to be presumptuous (“If I knew where all the tears were flowing to/ I’d guide them to a river where I’d swim with you”). His third and latest album, One Plus One Is One, confirms that he has an intriguing vision of what pop music should sound like, and it’s hard to ignore.

BDB’s symphonic approach to his subdued, mostly acoustic rock—full of strings, horns, bells, whistles, and gongs—shows off his taste as an arranger and composer. His harmonies complement his modest finger picking, and he somehow makes soft flute lines work with mellotron accompaniments. But every time he sets up a workable—or even beautiful—sonic landscape, as in “This Is That New Song,” he ruins it with a tired line like “If I knew the answers, I would tell you now.”

Each song has its own sophomoric trope—“weather the storm,” “it all comes down to love,” or One’s stupid overall theme that oneness “is greater than the sum of the parts.” The clichés run like the River Irwell, and without any irony or placement to make them meaningful. Three albums into his career, Gough has proven he has all the musical tact in the world, but he’ll remain insignificant without good songs.

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