Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour Of Bewilderbeast - Review
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critics' view

From the haunting string and muted brass opening to The Shining, you can tell that The Hour Of Bewilderbeast is no ordinary album, Experimental and occasionally schizophrenic in its song composition, it is charming, beguiling, lo-fi, folk-psychedelic slash indie musings at its best.

Released in 2000, Badly Drawn Boy’s self-written and produced album quickly gathered critical praise, scooping up the Mercury Music Prize to boot. Eight years on, it still sounds pretty good. Individualistic and quintessentially British, not many albums could carry off the words “I’ve been pissing in the wind/ I chanced a foolish grin/ And dribbled on my chin”.

Clocking in at over an hour, the 18-track running order is filled out with odd little instrumental breaks, or songs which are made up of multiple, seemingly unrelated, parts. Fall In A River, for example, fades slowly in to a lovely, upbeat acoustic number (which itself sounds like it is the end part of another song), which segues into underwater sounds, and then twangy guitar plucking. You can appreciate the attempt to create an audio journey, but it can lead to a disjointed experience. Cause A Rockslide is particularly guilty of these massive sonic changes.

Stone On The Water is simply beautiful, building from a soft, slightly mournful, acoustic beginning, to a tap-your-feel tune, which if anything ends slightly too soon. Straight on its heels is Another Pearl, with a fuller, more electric sound, and then the strange little music snippet Body Rap. If those musical changes don’t keep you intrigued, nothing will.

Further gems here include Once Around The Block, a charming, catchy-but-gentle love song (not singing along with the do-ba-do-ba tune is virtually impossible) and Disillusion, the most pop-sounding track here.

The Hour Of Bewilderbeast feels defiantly un-slick, and un-prepackaged, something that feels even rarer in a record release now than it did eight years ago. That is not to say that it is perfect - much as the experimental elements are to be admired, there is a slight whiff of self-indulgence. But give it one listen and it will worm its way firmly into your affections.

Helen Groom
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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