Damon Gough aka Badly Drawn Boy, one of Britain’s finest songwriters, returns after nearly a decade with Banana Skin Shoes.
Release Date: 22nd May 2020
Label: One Last Fruit
Format: CD / LP / Ltd. LP / Cassette / Digital
Badly Drawn Boy and I go way back. His songs formed a vital part of my musical diet when I was at college in Bolton; my mates and I frequented Manchester venues watching him play. Nights at Manchester Academy and Manchester Apollo are some of my fondest concert memories. There was also a night when Badly Brawn Boy played The Bridgewater Hall and my brother, father and I were seated on the front row in the centre. I got a guitar pick from this particular show which is still only one of two I have ever got from a show! All were great nights and ensured that I was enraptured by the charm of Badly Drawn Boy’s music.
Banana Skin Shoes is Badly Drawn Boy’s first album since 2012. What is immediately apparent is that the quirkiness and emotion that were packed into previous records is all at the forefront of each song here.
I’m Not Sure What It Is could easily have sat on Hour Of Bewilderbeast in its style. The reflective lyrics about a future untold is everything you’d expect from such a songsmith. I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness also brims with beautiful sentiment and emotion. The title suggests the theme; no complexities here…just music that wears its heart on its sleeve.
Whilst there is the distinctive sound that Badly Drawn Boy is known for is all over Banana Skin Shoes, there is a playful element to many of the tracks. The title track opens up the record in a fashion reminiscent of Beck. It has a nice slice of funk flowing through it. Colours is another funky track that steams along with gusto and some wonderfully layered harmonies.
I Need Someone To Trust is another cut that does exactly what it says on the tin but this is no lament. Lyrically it’s introspective again but this is a joyously uplifting song. That juxtaposition is another aspect of Badly Drawn Boy’s style that always shimmered with charm. Fly On The Wall has the same uplifting feel with some sumptuous strings added into the song to give a Philly Soul vibe. The lyrical wordplay referencing Emmeline Pankhurst is also brilliant; ‘tell me, have you suffered yet…like a suffragette;’ it’s one of many brilliant lyrics at play here.
Manchester is a city that is close to Gough’s heart. Tony Wilson Said takes the listener on a tour of Manchester’s great venues as well as paying homage to a true musical visionary. For this writer, I can relate to every word and moment described in the song. Whilst I was too young for the Hacienda, the fact that you should call Manchester instead of Chicago and New York is something that I can certainly relate to after some great nights watching some sublime DJ’s in Manchester. It’s a true highlight of Banana Skin Shoes and one that will definitely form a part of my staple musical diet going forward!
Never Change is a soulful ballad that is sung in Badly Drawn Boy’s inimitable style. Whilst never scaling the heights vocally, there is a wistful charm in his delivery using his ‘own’ voice. This is something that it is true of the whole album. The strings make a brilliant reappearance on Never Change too. I’ll Do My Best feels like an apt closer. It’s reflective and introspective, but above all it gives hope.
It’s a joy to hear Badly Drawn Boy again. He is seemingly happy, clear in thought and delivering positive vibes. Banana Skin Shoes sees Damon Gough doing his best for sure.
On a personal level, it feels like this album is an album I’ve been waiting for. It’s helped me reconnect with happy memories of twenty years ago on rain sodden nights in Manchester waiting to get home from a Badly Drawn Boy gig with my mates; one of whom is no longer with us.
On a general level, Banana Skin Shoes is a triumph; there are songs for summer and songs for winter; songs for dancing and songs for sitting. The wide array of styles make for a wonderful musical platter. I just hope it is not another eight years before the next album!