Badly Drawn Boy

Born in the U.K.
(Astralwerks)

Damon Gough makes the same album every time, only more so. Recording under the name Badly Drawn Boy, Gough came to prominence with The Hour of Bewilderbeast, the sort of lush, overly ambitious debut that promises a career filled with even higher peaks. And while nothing he's made since has been a dud, they all, including the new Born in the U.K., have felt like similar, though less surprising, explorations of Bewilderbeast's Bacharach coziness. U.K. makes several overt references to Gough's English upbringing — the Silver Jubilee, the Sex Pistols, Manchester club nights — but ultimately those autobiographical moments are mere window-dressing for his usual introspection and odes to domesticity. But though his material retains its elegance, his recent albums have suffered from aural fussing, the arrangements so polished and insular that the songs start to blur, with one midtempo piece of melancholy drifting into the next. (Only on "Nothing's Gonna Change Your Mind" does his obsession with pianos and strings fail to stifle the singularity of his melody.) He wants to honor his roots on U.K., but while he's at it, he should also remember the unpredictable quirkiness of his earlier musical efforts as well.

 
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