Album Reviews

Badly Drawn Boy – Is There Nothing We Could Do?

(BDB) UK release date: 14 December 2009

Badly Drawn Boy - Is There Nothing We Could Do? Damon Gough is fighting fat with folk. After three years, the Mercury Prize-winning musician better known by the self-deprecating moniker Badly Drawn Boy returns with an album inspired by (and released in conjunction with) ITV’s The Fattest Man In Britain. The TV film, which is loosely based on real events, follows one Georgie Godwin, a rather large shut-in who is compelled to retain his title of ‘Fattest Man In Britain’ when challenged by local heavyweight Big Brian.

The community rallies behind Godwin, bringing a train of fatty foods for his consumption. Of course, he also has the sweet croons of Damon Gough behind him. But rather than offering an album full of peppy encouragement, Badly Drawn Boy sketches out a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. The Fattest Man In Britain presents some comedy and some drama, but the soundtrack leans heavily toward the latter.

Some of the first words of the album are “Oh, I’m sorry,” which make up part of the refrain from the bittersweet title track Is There Nothing We Could Do? Gough continues with, “Who am I to ask you why you think the way you do? If you feel the way you do?” and the tender melancholia drips from quivering, Andrew Bird-style strings. The thing is, before Georgie Godwin embarks on his quest to be the fattest of all, he encounters a troubled teenage girl who tries to set him down the path of healthy living. But the promise of local celebrity status keeps Georgie fixated on staying large, and Badly Drawn Boy draws on the moroseness of this self-destruction.

Gough continues down his own path of excellence with standout track Welcome Me To Your World. It starts as a sorrowful sounding piano ballad and, by slowly adding horns and transitioning into a peppy shuffle beat, breaks through to a glimmering anthem. It’s an all-encompassing mixed bag of emotions that blends well with the comedy-drama presentation of the film, but more than that, it represents a triumph in the realm of inspirational songwriting.

Other songs here are softer, with only acoustic guitar and light accompaniment, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. Both Guitar Medley and Been There, Verified are welcomed breaks in the overall soundscape of the album. They’re offerings that point towards the artistic unity of this work – rather than a collection of songs, this is a unified album that maps on nicely to the complicated emotions and goals of the TV film.

Damon Gough was of course recognised early on, shambling off with the Mercury for his first album, The Hour Of Bewilderbeast. He’s also had experience doing soundtracks – his sophomore effort was the music to About A Boy. With Is There Nothing We Could Do?, Gough demonstrates continued staying power as a singer/songwriter.

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