Music Reviews

Badly Drawn Boy

About a Boy Original Soundtrack

XL / ARTISTdirect

You might approach this album with trepidation–it’s a soundtrack album, after all, and you might not know what to think about Badly Drawn Boy after only one album, The Hour of Bewilderbeast, which got somewhat more acclaim than it deserved.

Which is fine. But approach it nonetheless, because it might be one of the best damned movie soundtracks ever recorded. If you’ve seen the movie, which did a much better job of adapting the book than it had the right to, you’ll know how perfectly Damon Gough’s sound worked in the movie’s context. But even if you haven’t, there are some pop gems for real in the 44 minutes of this disc – and even though some of it seems just oh-so-BDB, it has more depth and emotional punch to it than it has the right to.

At least three of these songs would be #1 on the charts if this were a good world: the techno-hoedown “A Peak You Reach,” the Byrdsy “Something to Talk About” (NOT the Bonnie Raitt song, dammit), and the delicate Tropicalian 6/8 shuffle “Above You, Below Me.” But that only takes us up to track six. There are some other great heart-tugging songs here (“Walking Out of Stride”), some dope-ass instrumentals like “Delta (Little Boy Blues)” (much better than its title, mostly because of the trombone), and a tone of real emotional warmth. He’s begun to learn the lesson of his idol Bruce Springsteen: it don’t mean a thing if you don’t go out on that limb.

And if he goes to that easy-peasy 6/8 mode in way too many of these songs – well, so did Charles Mingus, who also loved to do soundtracks. And if there are some direct quotations from his first album here – well, he’s young yet. And he’s working on his new studio album, too. In the meantime, we have this… and it’s quite a stunning consolation prize.


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