New Epiphone Wildkat Review

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Badly Drawn Boy is Back!


Badly Drawn Boy BANANA SKIN SHOES. AWAL Recordings Ltd

“BANANA SKIN SHOES features fourteen brand new tracks including the political pop of current single ‘Is This A Dream?’ and sees Gough pushing forward yet again both musically and lyrically whilst retaining some of his classic trademarks. The bulk of the album’s production was completed at Eve Studios in Stockport last year with producer Gethin Pearson (Kele Okereke, JAWS) who also mixed the whole record. Damon had previously worked on tracks for the album with legendary producer Youth (The Verve, Paul McCartney) at his studio in London, Keir Stewart (ex-Durutti Column) at Inch Studios and Seadna McPhail at Airtight Studios.”

“Always one to wear his heart on his sleeve, Gough’s ninth album and first studio album in a decade is a truly personal and heartfelt collection of songs, a huge statement of intent and the most glorious, colourful warming, honest pop record you’ll probably hear all year. From the blast of the opening title track and forthcoming single with its riotous Beck-meets-Beasties ‘cartoony’ hip hop throw down to the immaculately tailored closer  ‘I’ll Do My Best’ a nod to his failings, a prayer to his partner and a lyrical tip of the hat to his hero Bruce Springsteen; this is the sound of a songwriter skipping between musical idioms and emotional extremes with a cool, calm confidence. The new single ‘Banana Skin Shoes’ is out now and accompanied by an animated video by award-winning film directors Broken Antler.”

“In between there’s the retro-futurist pop on ‘Fly On The Wall’, which evokes the Eighties pop-soul of Hall and Oates, the lush piano-and-strings ballad ‘Never Change’ and the Motown-like soul stomper of ‘Tony Wilson Said’; a celebration of the late, great fixer of the Manchester music scene. ‘I Need To Someone To Trust’, which begins with a nod to Chicago’s soft-rock classic ‘If You Leave Me Now’, is a spiritual song of salvation-seeking, and quite frankly, air-punching while the beautiful, embracing and loving  ‘I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness’ sees him dig deep and alchemise the trauma of a break–up into a song of salutation to his ex.”

‘Banana Skin Shoes’ – single link:



Before I started to listen to BDB’s latest I checked out reviews from Amazon buyers. The reason for this is that I have had diffculty in elevating the artist from good to great. For me, there was something missing. For example, I cannot compare him with some of my favourites like David Gray and Damien Rice (and several others) because I’m missing the passion and musical ambition from these and others. Those Amazon reviews were very favourable:

“…this is already my favourite album of the year and in my top three Badly Drawn Boy albums after only two plays and I have no doubt I’ll rate it even higher once all the songs seep fully in to my consciousness.”

After nearly a decade away Badly Drawn Boy returns with Banana Skin Shoes which is a brilliant album from track 1 to track 14. This will appear in many “best of” at the end of the year so get it now.”

Absolutely back to his best. For me, this is one of the best he has ever released. Excellent songs full of atmosphere. Not sure if I will hear a better album this year.”

There were only five reviews but they all loved it including this buyer:

“As a huge Badly Drawn Boy fan, I was a little anxious that this album from Damon Gough (his first in over 8 years) wouldn’t be worth the wait. I should have had more faith in the guy – this is already my favourite album of the year and in my top three Badly Drawn Boy albums…”

Now maybe there’s a clue hidden in this last review - “As a huge Badly Drawn Boy fan…”. You see I believe you’d have to be a devoted BDB fan to really love this album. The first track, ‘Banana Skin Shoes’, opens in exciting style with exploding percussion, brazen brass and an aggressive drum rhythm. Gough gives a sort-of-rap vocal to a set of decent lyrics and heavily desguised melody. For me not great with extremely rough production that renders the song just a mess of noise. ‘Is This A Dream’ reveals a strong melody but with the vocal overpowered by the instruments save for a few passages. It has a jazzy feel and bounds along like a chasing greyhound. Not bad.

‘I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness’ at last pushes the voice forward with another good melody and lyrics: “Is it true that/It’s better to have loved and lost/Than not/Have not loved at all/And we aimed high/So at risk of falling short/We’d stand tall/Right through it all.” With instruments taking a back seat and the vocal dominating the only thing missing is the passion and feeling for such an emotive song and message. ‘I’m Not Sure What It Is’ has a distinctly jazz vibe as it bounds along underpinned by another tangible melody, and radio-friendly choruses. But the song’s production is foul with the result that it is difficult to listen to (even on my high end hi-fi setup). Lyrics are up to the man’s excellent standard: “Sometimes I’m not sure just what it is/There are days where I remember to exist/I’m so blessed to have you by my side/The truest test is how you feel when you’re alone/The best part is that the future’s unknown/And the next part of our story’s untold.” BDB certainly has a way with words - always simple, always with meaning.

‘Tony Wilson Said’: “He symbolised and crystallised freedom/A King without a crown/He left more than a million footprints/All over this town.” Now Mr Wilson is one of my local heroes and especially after I witnessed a live interview with John Cale (not the most friendly or helpful of subjects) which is the best I have seen of any artist. But the song is almost throwaway with nothing outside of the lyrics to lend credibility to the sentiments expressed (including a rather ordinary vocal performance).

‘You And Me Against The World’ is so pedestrian and forgettable. ‘I Need Someone To Trust’ rolls along with dreadful production and is pretty ordinary pop. ‘A Note To Self’ grabs my attention for its stripped back instrumental, production clarity with the vocal forward of the recording. It’s one of my highlights with its strong melody and excellent lyrics: “Do I love myself/Enough to let somebody love me/I convinced myself/That nothing good comes for free/Common sense and self-belief/Could get us all the way there…” The same could be said for ‘Funny Time Of Year’ which for me says more about the artist’s true performance style than several songs here. Another set of simple and good lyrics complete an excellent song package: “After a while, the plans that we made/Can crumble and fall/At least we failed in style/And sooner or later we’ll laugh at it all.” The vocal is also matched with the song’s emotional message.


‘Fly On The Wall’ is pure BBC Radio 1 material while ‘Never Change’ injects some tangible emotion and truth. The vocal is well forward and as clear as a bell. This is how I imagine BDB should perform - clean production, minimum instrumentation and with feeling. The latter stages of the album lift the whole record for me with the final distant, spacy vibe of ‘Appletree Boulevard’ and the simpler, highly emotive ‘I’ll Do My Best’: “I came here with nothing/I’m gonna leave with less/Lately there’s been something/Laying heavy on my chest.”

While I hesitate to replicate the accolades of his fans, for me this is his best album. Given cleaner production, more expressive vocal delivery and a little more adventure this could have ben a great album rather than just a good one.


Album Track Listing:

01. ‘Banana Skin Shoes’
02. ‘Is This A Dream?’
03. ‘I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness’
04. ‘I’m Not Sure What It Is’
05. ‘Tony Wilson Said’
06. ‘You And Me Against The World’
07. ‘I Need Someone To Trust’
08. ‘Note To Self’
09. ‘Colours’
10. ‘Funny Time Of Year’
11. ‘Fly On The Wall
12. ‘Never Change’
13. ‘Appletree Boulevard’
14. ‘I’ll Do My Best

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