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Sunday, June 20, 2004

LISTENING POST

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Badly Drawn Boy: "One Plus One Is One"


One of the great things about Damon Gough's 2000 Mercury Prize-winning debut, "The Hour of Bewilderbeast," was its efficiency. The economy of the sound combined with the sophistication of the writing and arranging set a benchmark for bedroom music-making.

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On his next two records, the watch-capped Mancunian, who goes by the name Badly Drawn Boy, broadened his instrumental palette and hired studio musicians. His new album, "One Plus One Is One," doesn't just return to the bedroom; it hides in the closet. Though he uses some strings here and some flutes there, Gough limits the instrumental colors to his own finely wrought piano and acoustic guitar. His affectless, quiet voice dampens the drama of his autumnal lyrics, but when words fail him he fills in the emotions with melodic touches that say more than he ever could.

On both "The Year of the Rat" and "Holy Grail," he uses a children's chorus to provide the exuberant innocence the songs describe, but which Gough himself seems unable to reproduce. Not so much badly drawn as crudely sketched, Gough knows how to complete a picture of himself.



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