Badly Drawn Boy – Banana Skin Shoes

The new Badly Drawn Boy (BDB) long player ‘Banana Skin Shoes’ is out today.

This is BDB protagonist Damon Gough’s 9th studio album and its long, 14 tracks in total and none of which are scrimped on so you certainly get your money’s worth.

Right then let’s not mess about, straight to the elephant in the room. Surely everyone knows a couple of Badly Drawn Boy tracks and surely we have all seen ‘About a Boy’? Is this some great ‘OK Computer-esque’ departure from that winning formula? Simply put no, it is not. Is that a bad thing? Well my friend that is something only you can decide but it seems churlish of me now to try to tell you what music and bands influenced it as surely you already know!

Well here goes anyway. Album opener, and the first single released from it, ‘Banana Skin Shoes’ seems a little bit of a departure just to keep you crazy guys on your toes and there’s certainly a more experimental electronic feel so much so it probably the least Badly Drawn Boy song on the album. Though it’s the first single I think it’s one of the weaker tracks on the record and feels to me as if it has been chosen and viewed as mould breaking and made the cut on that basis alone.

‘Is This a Dream’ & ‘I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness’ revert back to classic BDB and this is a signpost for the entire albums content, every instrument and sound is a slab of superbly choreographed indie-folk pop with witty lyrics matched to Damon’s uniquely polished voice. That said at times he sounds unnervingly like Michael Buble but let’s try to forget I put that out there.

It seems apt now then to ask would your mom like it? Easy answer – certainly and if you judge the quality of your music by selecting anything she does or doesn’t like, just like I sometimes still do (I’m 45 years of age), then this isn’t probably for you.

‘I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness’ is a sad ditty about a loss of love and moving on and this is a recurring theme which continues in ‘Funny Time of Year’, ‘I Need Someone to Trust’ and ‘Note to Self’. Gough’s seemingly never ending quest for love and happiness continues unabated.  Lockdown cannot have been easy.

There are exceptions to the themes of love and loss. ‘Tony Wilson Said’ is an obvious love letter to the Factory records guru and of Manchester itself and of the various haunts, clubs and of course the infamous habit he had of signing contracts in blood, from his days of yore being born and bred there.  

I know that this album will not appeal to everyone I know some of my mates would literally never listen to BDB but if you’re a fan or a former fan whose lost their way you’ll enjoy it.  It’s warm, it’s pleasant and obviously a BDB album, it’s not rock and roll, its sensitive, it’s controlled, considered and calm. I have a lazy yet compelling urge to judge all artists via what BBC Radio channel I think on which they’d get aired so with that in mind I certainly feel this is more Radio 2 now than 6music, and I think BDB’s Radio 1 days are definitely out, though I get the impression that suits him just fine.

Tracks to download;

My advice is give the single ‘Banana Skin Shoes’ a go but if you want classic BDB go for ‘You and Me against the World’ which is so apt for lots of people at the moment and is a classic BDB with a cockle warming retro feel to it. I fully expected to be wished goodnight and for a safe onward journey home at the end. Also download ‘Funny Time of Year’ as I think this is the standout track of the album with a beautifully timed tempo.

Play it when?

You have your parents round so as such Cannibal Corpse are probably already off limits. The album’s ready made for the background noise to a beautiful sunny day in the garden with a bottle of beer in hand whilst accepting the simple earthly pleasures in your life. Just make sure you’ve changed tracks on your streaming site when your hardcore punk mates come round later.

John Frazer