Album review: Badly Drawn Boy – Banana Skin

Badly Drawn Boy Bananskin Shoes

Badly Drawn Boy Bananskin Shoes - Credit: Archant

Ninth album from the Mercury Music Prize-winner is a rollercoaster of ebullience and candour

Damon Gough’s had a tough time since his last studio album a decade ago; diagnosed with both Crohn’s disease and diabetes, and separating from the mother of his children.

Banana Skin Shoes might be Gough’s typically wry recognition of the hand of cards he’s been dealt, but his comeback album is shot through with a boisterous energy and uplifting optimism.

Recruiting Gethin Pearson (Kele Okereke, JAWS) on production and mixing duties, the songs are bright, bold and multi-layered without overwhelming Gough’s half-sung vocals.

The title track cocks a snook at the downcast hang-wringing of 2010’s It’s What I’m Thinking with a jumpin’, block-rockin’ mash of hip-hop, rainbows and electro-pop, throwing almost everything but the kitchen sink into a boisterous, brilliantly fun salutation.

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Also piling in is the anthemic, smorgasbord chorus of I Need Someone To Trust (with Abba-esque strings, drum machine, tambourines, shakers and a queasy garnish of M-O-R guitar) and Colours, which finds Gough channelling Beck – an inventive alt-disco concoction of svelte, rippling synth bassline, chalky bar-room piano riff and sprinklings of brass and xylophone.

If this all sounds rather unlike the BDB we used to know, long-time fans will spot the Bewilderbeast DNA in I’m Not Sure What It Is, which cuts a jaunty jive with bright brass and a sunny, forward-looking frame of mind. Keen to learn from missed opportunities (“I’m tired of climbing ladders just to slip down all the snakes”), by its end Gough is seizing the day (“The best part is that the future’s unknown / The next part of our story’s untold”).

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There is further candour in the poetic, moving message to his ex-partner I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness, sung over lilting piano and brass, while a finger-picked guitar motif arguably makes Note To Self the prettiest self-analysis-cum-pep-talk anyone’s given themselves.

The gentle bossa nova in You And Me Against The World and wisps of Tropicália (fed through a ‘90s synth deck) in Manchester love note Tony Wilson Said are welcome, too, while the heart-warming determination and pop nucleus of I’ll Do My Best is a fitting closer to a record that hails the return of a sterling songwriter with new-found purpose.

4/5 stars

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