Film soundtracks are usually a rum old affair. Record companies long ago figured out that if they packed the soundtrack with old hits and cover versions they could sit back and count the cash. Some of these soundtracks worked, but a lot sounded like a bad compilation tape thrown together. For some reason, Hugh Grant comedies are usually the worst culprits of this, with the Four Weddings and Notting Hill soundtracks epitomes of blandness personified.
You’d be forgiven therefore for thinking the worst of the soundtrack to About A Boy, the forthcoming romantic comedy starring Mr Grant. However, Nick Hornby, who wrote the book upon which the film is based, is no slouch when it comes to musical taste, and he had the inspired idea of asking Badly Drawn Boy to score the film. The result is nothing short of wonderful.
Afficionados of Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, have long known just how talented the man is. From the limited edition seven inch singles he made his name with, to the Mercury Music Prize winning The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, each release demonstrated the vitality and originality that is sadly lacking in much pop music today. Damon’s an odd choice to score a feature film, but he carries this off perfectly.
There are sixteen songs here, including a handful of instrumentals. One such instrumental, a 20-second piano piece called Exit Stage Right, opens the record before paving the way for the ridiculously exuberant A Peak You Reach. A fantastically infectious track that wouldn’t sound out of place on The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, it even manages to get away with the ‘diddle diddle doo’ vocal improvisations towards the end.
The next song, Something To Talk About starts off rather similar to the old favourite Pissing In The Wind, before turning into a country-tinged masterpiece.
The instrumentals add a new level to the record as well. I Love NYE shows just how suited Gough is to producing film soundtracks, as it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Cameron Crowe film. The track segues perfectly into the current single Silent Sigh, an achingly wistful track that is the highlight of the record.
This is the first time that Damon has worked with a producer (Tom Rothrock, who has worked with Elliott Smith) and some hard-core fans may complain they miss the lo-fi intimacy of his earlier work. However, the more commercial production only serves to highlight the fact that he’s one of the finest songwriters in Britain at the moment. Only Gough could write a song such as the acoustic A Minor Incident and make lyrics like “There’s nothing I could say to make you try to feel ok…just remember that I’ll always love you” sound so damn heartfelt.
The album draws to a close with the recent limited edition Christmas single Donna And Blitzen and it’s a suitably uplifting way to end the record. With strings soaring in the background, sleigh bells jingling along, and Gough promising “I’ll make you want me, you see…I will…I will sleep tonight”, it’s easy to imagine a cinema floor disappearing under a sea of tissues as the credits roll.
Even if the film doesn’t appeal, this record stands up in it’s own right as a great album. Geniuses come in strange shapes and sizes, and in this be-hatted, bewhiskered man from Bolton we have our very own bona fide genius. Let’s treasure him.