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Album Title: The Hour of Bewilderbeast
Artist: Badly Drawn Boy (aka Damon Gough)
Label: XL Recordings / Twisted Nerve
Released: October 3, 2000
Winner of the 2000 Mercury Music Prize

I found The Hour of Bewilderbeast at a Championship Records-esque shop on a cold winter day in 2000. I had a crumpled list of albums to look for in my hand and I was browsing through the racks, when suddenly the distinctive cover of this album caught my eye. I picked it up, and on the brown cover was a stick man made out of various odds and ends with the face of the artist, Damon Gough. Buy me, it whispered, and I trusted my gut instincts.

The Hour of Bewilderbeast is the first album from UK-based pop-folk artist Badly Drawn Boy. It crosses genres from folk to pop to rock to dance, all in such a seemingly effortless and still coherent fashion. He uses a great number of instruments in a creative fashion that still manages to work.

But there's something more here. This album is ... pssst ... a concept album. That's right. And do you know what the concept is?

Me.

This album, on basically a track-by-track basis, chronicles my life over the last seven years, as I've grown into and built a relationship with the love of my life. I almost believe this is intentional, that the artist intended this as a concept album.

Track Listing (or, tes: 1996-2003)
1. The Shining (5.18)
2. Everybody's Stalking (3.39)
3. Bewilder (0.48)
4. Fall in a River (2.17)
5. Camping Next to Water (3.50)
6. Stone on the Water (3.58)
7. Another Pearl (4.27)
8. Body Rap (0.45)
9. Once Around the Block (3.44)
10. This Song (1.32)
11. Bewilderbeast (3.30)
12. Magic in the Air (3.43)
13. Cause a Rockslide (5.55)
14. Pissing in the Wind (4.19)
15. Blistered Heart (1.50)
16. Disillusion (5.19)
17. Say It Again (4.41)
18. Epitaph (3.50)

This is my life in song, folks.

A Track-By-Track Description (or, a path through my relationship)

The Shining (5.18)
Written by Damon Gough
September 1996 - January 1997 in my timeline
The album kicks off in a state of loneliness. The first 1:20 of this track is filled with a melancholic cello, accompanied by French horn.
I was so dreadfully alone in late 1996. I have never, ever felt so lonely as I did at that time. It was my first year in college; I had never been away from home for more than a week before. I knew absolutely no one there, and I was miserable almost every second. I turned to writing letters, mostly to people I didn't know outside of the letters. I turned inward.
At about the 1:20 mark, the horn and strings subside and we hear the strumming of an acoustic guitar for a bit, playing a gentle and upbeat sound. And then the vocals kick in...
Faith pours from your walls, drowning you calls / I've tried to hear, You're not near
Remembering when I saw your face / Shining my way, pure timing

Soleil all over you / warm sun pours over me / soleil all over you / warm sun
And that's when I found her. I found her in the town where I grew up. Where we were separate, both alone, both confused, and both completely missing each other. It started off with simple letters, how-are-you's, and so forth. But it grew. We wrote about life, about love, about religion and God and everything around us.
The song continues on, a nice little acoustic number to open the album, with the horn coming back in every once in a while.
To put a little sunshine in your life
We kept writing, more and more often. I would fight through patches of loneliness to find little pieces of heaven in my mailbox. It grew. It changed into something that neither one of us suspected, but love came gradually.
Everybody's Stalking (3.39)
Written by Damon Gough
February 1997 - April 1997 in my timeline
This song has a bit more of an edge than the first one, opening up with some electric guitar work. The song has a good bit of distortion to it, and the song references countless other "coming-of-age" songs (Born To Run and Tonight's The Night immediately come to mind).
She had a college choice to make, too. So one warm March day, she came to the campus of my college for a visit. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. We walked around and talked of choices, of the way our lives were growing in unseen directions. At the end, she asked me to accompany her to the prom. I looked at her, realizing so much in that moment. It would be glaringly obvious to the world how I felt about her: would there be questions? Stares? Accusations? But I looked into her hazel eyes for just a second, and I knew my answer.
This is a song about persuasion, about a one-sided love growing wild that has to be nurtured from the other. Can the pursuer win over the pursued?
We went to the prom together. We sat together and talked. We took our picture together. And at the end of the evening, she held my hand in hers. I knew many of the people there; a fair number of them were recent classmates of mine. And it was obvious to all that something was growing between us. I told her I loved her, she said the same in return.
Bewilder (0.48)
Written by Damon Gough
May 1997 in my timeline
This is a short melancholic instrumental organ solo. There's really not much else to say besides that.
But we went apart after that. I went back to college for a while, and she stayed at home finishing up her schooling. I drifted through finals week, thinking about little else than the fact that I missed her and I couldn't wait to spend a summer at home and be with her.
Fall In A River (2.17)
Written by Damon Gough
June 1997 - July 1997 in my timeline
This song picks up where Everybody's Stalking left off, but with a softer edge. I think it's fair to say that the "river" described in this song is a metaphor for love and/or a relationship.
I knew then that something was starting between us, a path neither of us expected in life. I wanted her so badly much of the time, not really in a sexual way, but just in a deep need to be with her. I wanted to see her, to touch her hair... I dreamed about it.
Very abruptly, at the 1:30 mark, the sound of a water splash occurs, and the remainder of the song sounds distantly underwater, with the sound of flowing water all around and the music sounding deeply submerged.
And then, it began almost without a word. I went to where she worked almost the moment I had unpacked my bags, and I saw her standing there. She was wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans, she held a mop in her hand, and she was humming a song as she cleaned the floor. At that very instant, I knew I was in way over my head.
Camping Next to Water (3.50)
Written by Damon Gough
August 1997 - September 1997 in my timeline
This is a mellow folk-style song with a very nice low-key electric solo in the middle and a wonderful rhythm guitar carrying the whole thing along.
But yet, something undeniably had changed. I wanted her, wanted to be near her, but often I didn't know what to say. The words that had come so easily to the stationery, the wonderful things I was able to produce while with her at prom... they all failed me.
He sings...
But there's no use in feeling
All the things I'm feeling
There's no one here to feel with me
And in a way, I still felt terribly alone, even though she was now by my side. There was no one to talk to there. No one could understand, no one could know. It was a small town, and word flies fast there.
And he sings...
I think my mind is clearer now
I want you to be nearer now
I'm ready to come back to you
But she was still there. She was patient through all of this. She chose to go to the same college as I. And so that fall, we went back there, together this time.
Stone on the Water (3.58)
Written by Damon Gough
October 1997 - April 1998 in my timeline
The first 2:10 of this track is an instrumental section with an acoustic guitar and some other audio effects sampled in. At several points, the rhythm noticeably changes, almost as though it is leading into vocals, but then it drives away. After a while, some strings appear in the audio collage.
So there we were, away from home, only knowing each other (and the handful of acquaintances I had made during my first year there). We just simply fell into each other. We would meet every day in particular places, spend almost every evening together, and often we would fall asleep in the other's arms.
He sings... We could meet in a place you know where
I know when to go
It was love. It was platonic; it was and has never been about that. It is something deeper. Something undescribable. I yearned with every inch of my body to continuously be nearer to her, but we kept on, holding each other and moving forward through the flow of time.
And he sings... Skip like a stone on the water
Fall with no trace to lie permanently
I wanted her. Without her, nothing else mattered.

And that's still true, even after the intervening years.
Another Pearl (4.27)
Written by Damon Gough
May 1998 - September 1998 in my timeline
This song has the strongest "rock" feel of any track on the album up to this point, with a hook that quickly recalls Cornershop's Brimful of Asha.
And then she went away for four months. She went on an internship far away, where she worked in a brine-filled laboratory and sent me letters written on scratch paper from the lab. And I missed her and fell back into my patterns of loneliness.
He sings...
why are you trembling so much
I don't think I ever felt so good
when all I need is to ebb free
where I love you and you love me
But yet there was a freedom that summer. It was the last time in my life where I've been alone for an extended period of time. Ever since, I have lived with either a close friend or her, with the exception of a short period (described later). It was exhilirating in a way; I took up hobbies that I had dropped before, and did all sorts of new things.

But I still missed her badly.
Body Rap (0.45)
Written by Damon Gough
October 1998 in my timeline
This is a short piece that sounds like an off-the-cuff bit that was remixed by Fatboy Slim. The obvious dance overtones cause this track to stick out strongly on the album.
We reunited in the fall and I realized how much I missed her. Then, after about a month of classes, I woke up one morning next to her. She was still asleep under the sheets, and I realized that I loved her. She was laying facing away from me, and I ran my fingers through her hair just a bit, and she stirred. I remember what she looked like that day, laying there so beautiful, and I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life.
Once Around The Block (3.44)
Written by Damon Gough
November 1998 - May 1999 in my timeline
This song features strong and effective use of a vibraphone, which is somewhat distinctive in pop music. The accompaniment of electric and acoustic guitar alongside the vibraphone makes this track a distinctive and memorable experience.
We began to settle into a routine of sorts, the way most established couples do. We'd read the paper together in the morning, each grabbing our favorite sections. We'd dine together and talk about our day. We'd study together in the same room, each focused on different subjects. And we'd hold each other in the night. It became our life, our routine.
He sings...
You quiver like a candle on fire
I'm putting you out
Maybe tonight we could be the last shout
But I'm fascinated by your style
Your beauty will last for a while
And I became happy with that, in the way it became a contentedness. I looked forward to each day of it; we became used to it; it became the routine of our lives.
This Song (1.32)
Written by Damon Gough
June 1999 - December 1999 in my timeline
This song features distorted vocals and guitar work in a very melancholic and slow style. It's a short number and one of those pleasant ones that can be interpreted in as many ways as the day is long.
And when the summer came, we were both free to do what we wanted. I worked in a genetics laboratory, she did computer work, and we came together at the end of each day. The work was often challenging for me, and many days the thought of coming home to her is what sustained me.
He sings...
This song will be here when you're old
This song will heat you when you're cold
Believe you when I don't
This song will heal from your soul
That's not to say that we didn't have problems at all. We argued and fought and sulked a fair amount. But neither one of us could really resist the other, and it was never long before we were walking in the woods again, hand in hand. It was truly the summer of our relationship, and the period when I realized how complete she made my life in a lot of ways.
Bewilderbeast (3.30)
Written by Damon Gough
January 2000 - May 2000 in my timeline
This is another instrumental that just fits well into the flow of the album. It's a continuation piece, wonderful instrumental music that effectively bridges together the first half (everything up to here) and the second half (everything thereafter) of the album.
And so it remained. We went through our ups and downs for a while, but we stayed together through it.
Magic In The Air (3.43)
Written by Damon Gough
June 2000 - December 2000 in my timeline
This song uses a wurlitzer and harps to open, making for an unusual opening, but then it drops down into a simple piano-based number.
In our hometowns, word began to spread that we were indeed a couple. All sorts of crazy rumors began to spread, about our already-impending marriage, about what we were doing together, about what our families thought. I would go home and hear all sorts of craziness, people asking nonsensical garbage questions about the two of us.
He sang...
Nothing in this life for me tonight
But nothing ever seems so bright
And if you should lose me
You will track me down.
I got to know her family, and she mine. I travelled to meet her grandparents; she met the whole of my family, as well. The word, I guess, was finally out among those who had known us growing up.
Cause a Rockslide (5.55)
Written by Damon Gough
January 2001 - September 2001 in my timeline
This song is very quiet, yet contains a reserved uptempo feel to it. The song features some nice keyboards, but the engineering of this song seems somehow off; it's almost too quiet for the rest of the album.
We camped together in the woods one night. I could hear the crickets chirping and I could hear her breathing. I wanted the moment to go on forever, I wanted to stand in one place.
He sang... I want to sing along with you With you Your sweetness, would cause a rockslike
But it couldn't happen. And so we went back to our real lives, together as always.
At about the halfway point, the song turns into an audio collage of sorts, with the sounds of a rockslide and various other elements strewn about.
In September, we had a huge fight about the direction of our lives. We wanted to stay on a path together, yet it felt like our lives were on the verge of diverting. Neither of us wanted it, but neither of us wanted to really give up our own path.
Pissing in the Wind (4.19)
Written by Damon Gough
September 2001 - December 2001 in my timeline
This is a jazz-influenced number with excellent use of both harmonica and tambourine.
It was our final year as students, but we hadn't yet looked far enough ahead to see what was coming, either one of us. I was confused and hurt for a long while; I had just assumed that I would follow my own path and she would come along. She had come to the same school that I was already at, hadn't she?
He sang...
just give me something
i'll take nothing
just give me something
i'll take nothing
Weirdly, though, we didn't talk about it much. It was much like the calm before the storm. Life went on as normal.
Blistered Heart (1.50)
Written by Damon Gough
January 2002 - April 2002 in my timeline
This is a melancholic and sad keyboard-led instrumental that comes across as deeply mournful over something lost.
We began to disagree a lot. Expectations for both of us were building up; we were both looking for jobs in a job market without much to offer. It seemed as though our roads were diverging right before our eyes. I began to greatly identify with Frost. And then I was hurt.
Somehow, in the midst of all of this chaos and pain, I managed to graduate, and I got a job. She was still looking, but she stuck by me then. Why? Was it sympathy?

Looking back, I think it was love.
Disillusion (5.19)
Written by Damon Gough
May 2002 - August 2002 in my timeline
This track uses the "new wave" approach of hiding sadness and melancholy behind strongly uptempo and catchy pop. This song features a very nice electric guitar solo in the middle, and this comes from someone who generally does not like them.
She went home to teach that summer, teaching a summer school in a desperate attempt to bolster her resume. I stayed behind, working for the Department of Agriculture as a programmer. Yet, somehow, our paths were still going to cross.
He sings...
Seems you created your own illusion
Fuelled by an image of me
Well I couldn't stay at your side
It wouldn't be right
A picture that I just don't see
I realized I missed her. I realized I would do anything to have her back. I considered quitting just to follow her. And then a miracle happened. She came back; she found a job very near where I was working, and we lived together once again.
Say It Again (4.41)
Written by Damon Gough
September 2002 - October 2002 in my timeline
This is a driving number that, in my opinion, should have been a hit single, but I feel that way about many tracks on this album. It's about isolation and discovery at the same time, an interesting mix of feelings.
We reunited, and it was blissful. I realized how much value she held in my life, and I realized that I did not want to ever let her go away from me again.
He sings...
Were pumping our love
Into the sea
Full bodied
And bursting with energy
I proposed. And she accepted.
Epitaph (3.50)
Written by Damon Gough
November 2002 - our wedding in my timeline
This album closes with another number featuring distinct and yet palatable instrumentation: this time, it's whistling, closing out the album.
Where will it go? What path will it lead down? I don't know, but I know one thing: I'm in the right place with the right person. She will help to carry me through the uncertainty.
And he sings:
Please don't leave me wanting more
I hope you never die
There's no need to say why
Just promise that you'll try

If You Liked This, Try... (or, Stories Of Other Relationships)
If this album is appealing to you, you might enjoy these; on the other hand, if you like these albums, this one is probably right for you.
Soundtrack: About A Boy: Badly Drawn Boy's second "album," although it also serves as the soundtrack to a movie
Oh, Inverted World by The Shins, a similar style with a bit more Beach Boys in them
Parachutes by Coldplay
The Man Who by Travis
and especially Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco, which is an unbelievably great album.

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