thu 13/08/2020

Album: Badly Drawn Boy - Banana Skin Shoes | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Badly Drawn Boy - Banana Skin Shoes

Album: Badly Drawn Boy - Banana Skin Shoes

No slip-ups as Damon Gough returns with his strongest release in nearly two decades

In 2000, when Badly Drawn Boy released his debut album, The Hour of Belwiderbeast, it felt like an embarrassment of riches. Along with the string of singles he’d previously put out, ranging from the lo-fi to the luminous, Damon Gough’s creative tap was in full flow. His 2002 follow-up, the soundtrack for hit film About a Boy, was similarly sublime. 

Of course, if you’re going to place a bar that high, you won’t always reach it. Gough’s last album proper was 2010’s It’s What I’m Thinking…, an introspective affair that pays dividends, but demands close attention and repeated listening before doing so. 

After an extended leave of absence that many might have thought a retirement, BDB is back with Banana Skin Shoes, a collection of 14 songs that range from upbeat, pop-soul shuffles to big-hitting ballads all tied together with a deft touch and a playful grin. The headline of Banana Skin Shoes as return to form is certainly tempting – there’s much here that will please fans of Bewilderbeast – but it might also do the album a disservice. 

Gough has a knack of summoning immediacy while swerving expectations. He twists familiar-sounding melodies into new shapes – just when you think you know where a hook is heading, a subtle drop of the shoulder takes it somewhere else and leaves you standing. It’s one of the musical motifs that fingerprint his most successful songs and is much in evidence here, most notably on “Is This a Dream?”, “I’m Not Sure What It Is” and “Appletree Boulevard”. 

Lyrically, there seems to be a new confidence at play as well. Economy of language has long been a strong suit of Gough’s, but often big emotion has been clothed in clever metaphor. Clever is fine – wonderful even – but when he sings: “And we aimed high/So at the risk of falling short/We'd still stand tall/Right through it all” on “I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness”, everything falls away and the power of saying something simply hits hard. 

“It’s hard for me to say it but I’m ready to confess/I’ve known for a while now that I haven’t been my best,” he sings on album closer “I’ll Do My Best”.  This release certainly puts those concerns to bed for a bit, so yes, call it a return to form if you must… but Gough isn’t retreading old ground in Banana Skin Shoes, he’s taking great strides forward.

@jahshabby

Gough isn’t retreading old ground in Banana Skin Shoes, he’s taking great strides forward

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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It's Appletree Boulevard...

It is - apologies. Corrected now, and thanks. 

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