|Badly Drawn Boy:
About a Boy Soundtrack Label: Reincarnate Music
There were glimmers of genius on Hour of Bewilderbeast, the 2000 debut album of Badly Drawn Boy, aka Damon Gough. "Once Around The Block" floated like some lost Van Morrison classic, and "Disillusion" had a certain Paul Westerberg quality to it. And let's not forget "The Shining," which just might be the coolest song The Gap ever used in an ad. Those genius bits, however, were hidden within an 18-track album that was about six songs too long, and the end result was maddening. If only someone would smack Boy Gough upside the head once in a while and tell him when to quit, then we might have something.
Well, it looks like I got my wish. Tabbed to write the soundtrack for the film version of Nick Hornby's book About a Boy, Gough makes good on his potential and delivers a stunner, a superb collection of Elliott Smith-style chamber pop and luscious widescreen "scene" music. This is definitely a candidate for my year-end Top 10 list.
Following the brief orchestral opener, "Exit Stage Right," the pop parade starts with "A Peak You Reach," a manic acoustic jam with a great guitar hook. "Something To Talk About" is the best song Elliott Smith never wrote, and that similarity is no coincidence. Smith's longtime collaborator Tom Rothrock co-produced About a Boy as well, and Gough couldn't have found a better person for the job. Both Smith and Gough write baroque pop with indie rock sensibilities, and Gough's songwriting seems to have blossomed with Rothrock as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of. "Silent Sigh" is his John Lennon tribute (solo Lennon, to be precise), and "River, Sea, Ocean" is somewhere between Elliott and Paul Simon, and one of the album's highlights.
Gough hasn't completely lost his desire to play around, though. "File Me Away" is like a lost Kirsty MacColl song, and "Delta (Little Boy Blues)" sounds like (go with me on this) ambient gods Air covering the Smiths' "What Difference Does It Make." The only experiment that truly goes awry is the horn and drum machine-driven "S.P.A.T.," which simply does the same riff for far too long.
A few of the pop songs are reconstructed as a film score. "I Love NYE" carries a strain of "Something To Talk About," and "Rachel's Flat" is the brief but oh so melancholy third-act interpretation of "River, Sea, Ocean." The album's closer, "Donna and Blitzen," is clearly the Boy Gets Girl song, a 1950s girl group anthem that is the easily sweetest thing Gough's ever done, and thankfully has nary a trace of irony.
The film "About a Boy" is not likely to storm the box office, as it was released the same weekend as "Star Wars: Episode II" (how about that for counter programming?), but with any luck, the soundtrack should do for Badly Drawn Boy what Good Will Hunting did for Elliott Smith and Magnolia did for Aimee Mann.