Badly Drawn Boy
It's What I'm Thinking - Photographing Snowflakes


2.0
poor

Review

by robin EMERITUS
November 3rd, 2010 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Damon Gough’s records were never ragged. That’s what we’re supposed to think, right" Badly Drawn Boy, the godfather of train station busking, some guy desperately clinging to a famous beard. General homeless guy. Judging from the music video to “Something To Talk About,” someone threw a guitar into his cup. Those woolly hats, right"

Image clearly lies: there’s nothing ragged about The Hour of Bewilderbeast. It’s long, it’s weird, it’s messy perhaps, but it doesn’t need the shave Gough does. The Hour of Bewilderbeast was so loveable because it was a sprawling sound collage, Gough putting all he had to the board and gluing his heart out. The result was a gorgeous indie pop record, as full to the brim with harmony as Illinoise and with twice the heart.

The best thing about Gough’s sprawling, of course, is that he takes detours. His records start with important thoughts (in the case of One Plus One is One, one very important thought, love) and wind up with no conclusion, but no questions asked, either: no one particularly cares that that these themes of love and unity pass Gough by, so long as the flute stays firmly in his hands. Hearing Gough sing about his girlfriend may get smiles, but the flute" It’s the staying power.

Sprawling is, quite simply, everything that makes Gough great. We say he’s special because he doesn’t have an editor- who wants to listen to Gough cram sixteen, seventeen ideas into ten songs" There’s no point in a straight-up Badly Drawn Boy album because there is nothing to get lost in, no chance to contemplate what on earth is going on in this instrumental or that. And It’s What I’m Thinking Pt. 1 – Photographing Snowflakes is tragic because he’s run out of detours, or even steps forward: this is a man turning sharp on his heels. For the first time in his career, Gough is trying to be as concise as can be, compacting as much melody as man needs into ten songs.

For a guy without an editor, that’s ambition at its highest, and It’s What I’m Thinking suffers so much from being overstuffed it barely makes a mark. Its concentration is on atmosphere, but its atmosphere is confusing at best because of this excruciating concentration. “In Safe Hands” and “The Order of Things” are constructed with meandering sound effects and drum machines, electronic orchestras that place Gough and his acoustic mopes on a landscape. But the landscape is all Gough ends up with. He can’t get away from it, and never really sounds like he wants to. The juxtaposition of It’s What I’m Thinking is bizarre: Gough’s voice never raises above his song, and the arrangements rarely give him reason to. Even with the vibrant strings of “Too Many Miracles”- even at the album’s most symphonic- there’s no enthusiasm, nothing for Gough to wax lyrical about. Instead, he utters: “Are you ready to be in love again"” Snowflakes are a downer.

What Gough doesn’t lose to constraint he does to production. His centrepiece, “It’s What I’m Thinking,” is again designed for the atmosphere, the most clear of Gough’s tracks to date with echoes and an onslaught of country twang. And the more that goes into it, the less comes out: the track plods through until it ends filled with every slab of gorgeous instrumentation available, but for a track so aimless and meandered, there’s little to immerse in. If it were three tracks, sure. But It’s What I’m Thinking is (discounting that ridiculous bonus song collage) ten, not eighteen. And with Gough, getting lost in a song isn’t as exciting as getting lost in an album.

It’s worth getting into the head that this is Pt. 1, and what that signals is a mystery to all but Gough. It could mean a trilogy, and context could reveal all we need to know about It’s What I’m Thinking. Would this be more engrossing, say, if we had three hours of Gough’s thoughts to stew on" It seems, quite tragically, unlikely: The Hour of Bewilderbeast wasn’t subdued- it never shut up. And at this point, I wonder if hypothetical parts 2 and 3 would do anything to quench Badly Drawn Boy’s thirst, and just how long we’ll have to wait to have Gough giddy again. This is, Gough at his most subdued, and that is Gough at his most ambitious. Who’d have thought that ambition would be his downfall" It’s What I’m Thinking, 2010’s most bizarre release, backs our bearded superstar into a very tight corner indeed.



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user ratings (16)
Chart.
3
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
November 3rd 2010


32190 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Oh I don't know about this

PuddlesPuddles
November 3rd 2010


4798 Comments


I' d have to agree, but I've never really liked any of his stufff

robin
Emeritus
November 3rd 2010


4555 Comments


listening to this has made me hugely appreciate born in the uk. although i maintain my love of one plus one first and foremost.

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
November 3rd 2010


22486 Comments


The name of this artist rings a bell... But I can't recall why. Can you refresh my memory Robin? LOL.

Every review I have seen of this has echoed your thoughts.

crank
November 3rd 2010


332 Comments


Never bothered with BDB, so maybe I should?

robin
Emeritus
November 3rd 2010


4555 Comments


davey - so far the only one i've read is positive. link me up!

also have you even listened to hi myet?

also kane yes. bewilderbeast is his supposed best and everyone hates on oneplusoneisone but youd love it, very home-y and indie.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
November 3rd 2010


16725 Comments


everybody needs to knoow its the year of the rat

DaveyBoy
Emeritus
November 3rd 2010


22486 Comments


No, I haven't as yet. Yep, I'm rude.

And the reviews have just been in local street press & the like.

klap
Staff Reviewer
November 3rd 2010


12081 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i was going to review this but then i listened to it

Digging: Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising

Bitchfork
November 4th 2010


7584 Comments


"everybody needs to knoow its the year of the rat"
my year.

good review explains my feelings exactly


DonniSharK
November 4th 2010


466 Comments


Good review, posd.

confusion
November 21st 2010


3 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sorry, this is a ridiculous review.

klap
Staff Reviewer
November 22nd 2010


12081 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

absolutely preposterous robin

robin
Emeritus
November 22nd 2010


4555 Comments


: (

confusion
February 22nd 2011


3 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sorry for the comment before, but I still think this review is kind of frustrating...



For example,



"This is, Gough at his most subdued, and that is Gough at his most ambitious."



Gough's ambition was indeed his downfall---but this album simply is just not Gough at his most ambitious!



Do you remember Born In The UK? There was Gough's major label debut, there was him making ridiculous comments about wanting to be like James Blunt, there was him making an ambitious, bombastic run at the mainstream charts and failing, both critically and commercially. People have said some nasty things about Gough's music since that damn Bewilderbeast (that every single BDB review has to start with and focus on it would seem). All of this has been his downfall.



And so here we are 4 years after Born In The UK and 10 years after Bewilderbeast and Damon has finally been convinced to return to the studio for a TV movie soundtrack. Feeling inspired he records a new set of songs for the next proper BDB album quickly afterwards. And what we've got is definitely a more subdued Badly Drawn Boy record---but not one full of ambition, I don't think. Here is a collection of subdued songs from a humbled Badly Drawn Boy with lyrics that reflect what he's been through since that last album. Back on his own label now and working with old friend Andy Votel, he's come full circle it seems. And so what of those songs?

confusion
February 22nd 2011


3 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

He mutters, "Are you ready to be in love?"



Oh, actually yes =)



"I'm ready to be in love"



Honestly. Is this a poor album? Really?



I know I know I know. Damn Gough is not cool. Bewilderbeast was cool. This is not cool.



And you don't have to give it a 4, 5, whatever. I understand. But I really don't think it's a 2 - Poor album. I don't have the fancy words to make a good review of it. And I'm biased being a huge BDB fan. But let's just look for a little.



In Safe Hands. Did you hear the demo of this one? I love this song. A quiet acoustic return to form that draws you in and sets the mood for the album, "I'm sorry for failing"



The Order Of Things. "birds in the sky sing my melodies" A pleasant, sweet song from Damon. Time to "rearrange the order of things"---less ambitious than last time out? =)



Too Many Miracles. The single, a catchy pop song.. hey. I love this one too. I want to say though that I'm not a fan of the mix. The seem to have buried his voice and strings and generally 'smashed' (or something) to make it fit in on the album; the single radio edit is much better, in my opinion.



The Order Of Things. Oh I love this one. A piano balladish song that builds to its end "just when you think that you could never find it, just then you realize the future is all in our hands" Hey. Are you reading this, anyone? I know I know I know. Probably not.



And I don't have time to write more right now, got to do schoolwork and stuff. But come on. Is this really a poor album? What's so bad about those songs? Really? Really really really? I don't know. You guys. Ok fine. It won't affect my enjoyment. Anyway, that's all. Bye.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2011


32190 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

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automation
March 10th 2011


3 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is a pretty solid album; it's definitely not "poor". Maybe Damon won't ever go back to that experimental pop of

Bewilderbeast. But I'm enjoying his departure from the more bombastic Born In The UK and Have You Fed The Fish.

The songs here on Photographing Snowflakes are nice... they have more melody than One Plus One Is One.

Photographing Snowflakes is in some ways the easiest BDB record to listen to. I'm just happy he's making music again.



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