Balaam's Ass (faith, culture, politics)

I believe the church has lost its prophetic voice by choosing sides with the powers of the world. They have become like Balaam. I am hoping to be his donkey by helping them see the error of their ways before it is too late. So, yes I am the Ass. When you read the posts you may well agree. a little light reading regularly included

Friday, August 06, 2004

Fuller Reviews of New CDs, beginning with Badly Drawn Boy

Badly Drawn Boy's One Plus One is One

The fourth project from Damon Gough, AKA Badly Drawn Boy is more of the same. However, "the same" is a good thing when "the same" is brilliant pop music on par with Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds (the perfect album, by the way).

Less produced than Have You Fed the Fish?, this CD brings to mind Elliot Smith, Nick Drake and Morrissey if they were a little less depressed and discovered the wonders of Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson and horn sections.

Gough once again weaves odd little tales with mischievous lyrics into tight symphonies and soundtracks to films no one is brave enough to make (although his soundtrack to a real film About a Boy is considered by some fans to be his best work). Just listen to a few of the titles; Summertime in Wintertime, Year of the Rat, Don't Ask Me I'm Only the President and Holy Grail.

Gough's most striking ability (like that of the aforementioned artists) is to weave beauty, profound sadness and levity in one song, such as This is That New Song and Another Devil Dies. As with his previous CDs, BDB treads lightly on religious themes, using Biblical language to express everyday emotions (i.e. Born Again from Have You Fed the Fish?). Just spend 8-plus minutes with the center piece of the album, Holy Grail, complete with distorted guitar, self-help psychology, syncopated piano, children's choir and Radiohead ending.

Gough's musicianship continues to mature, especially his piano work (he is a multi-instrumentalist), which is what gives him such a great pop sensibility (that and lots of strings). I have grown to appreciate piano-based songwriters during the past few years. They tend to have much a much better grasp of classic pop song construction. Just listen to Bacharach, Ben Folds or Brian Wilson-era beach Boys, even early Elton John. Pop music does not get better than that. And this is coming from a recovering guitar snob.

There are is no filler on this CD, unlike previous projects. On a album this strong, there are many highlights, including Year of the Rat, Holy Grail and One Plus One is One (which would not be out of place on his last CD).

If you do not know Badly Drawn Boy step away from your James Taylor wannabes, Norah Jones clones and take-themselves-too-seriously bands and listen to simple pop perfection. This is the most consistently satisfying Brit pop since Squeeze's heyday.