Damon Gough, who performs under the Badly Drawn Boy moniker, seems to have two personas. One is the quiet introspective singer-songwriter of The Hour of Bewilderbeast and About a Boy. The other is the heavily arranged and orchestrated sound of Have You Fed the Fish? On Born in the U.K., he fully returns to his glossily produced sound. While I miss the intimate sound of his earlier work, Gough is a good songwriter and makes most of these tunes work. The bulk of the songs are piano based with generous helpings of brass instruments and background vocals. It begins with the experimental sounding Swimming Pool then morphs into the seventies inspired Born in the U.K. Actually, this seems like more of an ode to 70’s pop than it does to Bruce Springsteen’s similarly titled Born in the U.S.A. The standouts here are the sing-along tunes like Journey from A to B and the rockier Nothing’s Gonna Change Your Mind. Promises, a mellower tune, shows off Gough’s ability to also write quality straightforward lyrics as he sings, “Just promise you will remember/ A promise should last forever/ Right up to the dying embers/ Of a fire that burns so slow.” I have always had a soft spot for modern bands that throw in some of the 70s pop touches I grew up with and this is why The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner by The Ben Folds Five is one of my favorite albums. Badly Drawn Boy is definitely as talented as others in the pop songwriter genre like Ben Folds or Grant Lee Buffalo. While this is a quality album, it never reaches its potential with its standard arrangements and production. This is for fans the aforementioned artists, Ben Lee and Rufus Wainwright.
2.50 out of 4.00 on the Vin Swanson Scale.