Private Eye mocks the term but Badly Drawn Boy is a bit of a national treasure; surely everyone likes him? Or at least likes the idea of him, a bobble-hatted troubadour turning out polished pop gems. You want all his releases to be good but if they’re not, you forgive him. We saw him live once and he was unremarkable, but hey, everyone has bad days at the office.
Thanks to the goodwill created by Hour Of The Bewilderbeest, you can forgive him the odd failure of quality control on the assumption that something good will soon be along.
It may be 10 years since his last release but this new album is the proverbial good thing.
The title track opens and it’s a get-you-up-and-going slickly produced mix of hip hop, jazz, funk and pop: “Press play, not stop or pause or fast forward” instructs the Badly Drawn one.
The album does not contain any fillers but it does slow a little towards the end but this opener creates a momentum that never fully fizzles out.
Is This A Dream? follows, an instantly likeable and upbeat pop tune that’s as Badly Drawn Boy as Badly Drawn Boy gets; if you could map out a perfect BDB tune, this would be it. We think it’s about life as a pop star. Lines such as “running out of caviar, had to sell the supercar” are easy enough but “thanks Mr Andrews for giving me the big red book” dates him a little; “give me some love” he sings later so maybe it’s about people having it all but wanting the simple things in life, though it could literally be about dreams.
The same is true about I’m Not Sure What It Is, one of several songs with a Latin-style dance beat, and a bit of a kitchen sink approach, with brass, strings and other stuff all thrown in.
I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness is more thoughtful and sad, but again fairly typical.
Tony Wilson Said is tighter and puts Manchester on a par with Chicago and New York and courtesy of the late Mr W. Rusholme, Moss Side, Whalley Range, Strangeways all get a name check, all part of the “million footprints left over this town” by Wilson. Factory Records, the Apollo and the Hacienda all a plug. Colours distantly echoes the electro-pop of Pet Shop Boys.
A strong return for the Boy, putting him back on the national treasure pedestal where he belongs.