Twisted Nerve - 2004 - 55 minutes

One thing you will never feel when you buy a Badly Drawn Boy album is ripped off. Where some artists routinely lay down ten tracks and leave it at that, BDB, aka Damon Gough, has never been so thrifty. There are 14 songs here, the last of which clocks in at a testing eight minutes. If more is less, then Gough wins every time. But it's still an if...

Two years ago on 'Have You Fed The Fish?', Badly Drawn Boy opted for busy, stratified arrangements. Here, things are much sparser. 'One Plus One Is One' is a relaxed, confident collection, and while it's just a bit too hit-and-miss to be considered the big leap that many believe BDB is capable of, it's by no means a failure.

On the eponymous opener Gough is in Beatles mode, acoustic guitar giving way to a choppy string section and semi staccato piano chords. It's a warm welcome. 'Easy Love' follows, an acoustic-based affair in which the hat-loving singer yearns for a romance that lasts. 'Summertime in Wintertime' is as fast as it gets on this, a by-the-numbers guitar song with what sounds suspiciously like a recorder dominant in the mix.

There are crests and troughs throughout. 'Another Devil Dies', with its jazzy, lounge-act piano provides a rich template for some of Gough's most imaginative lyrics on the entire album. Single 'Year Of The Rat' makes good use of a children's choir, but is still dangerously close to Labi Siffre territory in its sentiment. Brief instrumental 'Stockport' is delightful, if a little out of place, while another instrumental, 'The Blossoms', sounds like it was written for a documentary about Sherwood Forest. The latter is not so much poor as just plain odd.  

Badly Drawn Boy sounds like plenty of others, but none of them are around today. His heritage is that of the piano-loving balladeers of the 60s and 70s, with some quirky modern arrangements thrown in for effect. And, in tune with his lineage, BDB's songs are honest, heartfelt affairs. There is emotion here, and even if the voice lacks the gravel to intensify things, you still get the feeling that here is a guy that means every word he says.

For now, it seems Gough is getting into a groove. Four in and he seems to have found a niche, and is content to stick with it. Great news for fans then, while his detractors will have yet more ammunition to say he lacks the variety or guts to up the ante.

Love him or hate him, you sense that the badly drawn one has a few cards left to play yet. Next time though, he might just have to play the ace.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: One Plus One Is One - Easy Love - Summertime In Wintertime - This Is That New Song - Another Devil Dies - The Blossoms - Year Of The Rat - Four Leaf Clover - Fewer Words - Logic Of A Friend - Stockport - Life Turned Upside Down - Takes The Glory - Holy Grail