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Badly Drawn Boy: One Plus One Is One


Badly Drawn Boy

Album: One Plus One Is One
Label: Astralwerks/XL

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Even before his bizarre live shows became legendary, Damon Gough (a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy) presented himself as a talent of the most temperamental variety. His debut, 2000's The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, swept from one style to the next, trying orchestral pop here and electronic flourishes there, mostly finding ways to make it all work but always threatening to topple under its own ambition. When the songs didn't take hold (though most did), there was always the daredevil thrill of hearing Gough push the limits. There was also a sense that he didn't really care whether his listeners liked what he was up to, so long as he made himself happy. That undercurrent continued through his next two projects, the soundtrack to About A Boy and Bewilderbeast's proper follow-up, Have You Fed The Fish? The results proved impressive anyway, but with One Plus One Is One, Gough follows his muse into a quiet cubbyhole that's unlikely to admit many others.

"As the past becomes the future, it becomes clearer that it still boils down to love," Gough sings on the album-opening title track. He fills One Plus One Is One with such fuzzy, gentle sentiments, sometimes accompanying them with a flute, sometimes with a children's choir. At times, the album sounds like a lost collaboration between Nick Drake and Jethro Tull, and one that might have best stayed lost.

It's texture without form. Gough knows how to craft a memorable song, but on One Plus One Is One, he sounds determined not to. Instead, he just keeps chugging through interesting sounds until he grows bored with them. "Every day we've got to hold on / 'Cause if we hold on, we can find some new energy," Gough and some kids chirp on "Year Of The Rat." With luck, album number four will make good on their promise.