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The Collector: (B is for) Badly Drawn Boy – One Plus One Is One (XL 2004)

October 18, 2009

How much music has been bought for the comfort of buying music, or even for the comfort of buying full stop? How do we convince ourselves we are parting with our hard earned for what is in effect an exercise in distracting ourselves from our ills? In my own case, is “I don’t own any Badly Drawn Boy; I should buy some” a good enough reason? And having made that decision, why did I buy one I hadn’t even heard as much as a single? But there I was, the week this was released, buying it.
I liked Bewilderbeast and Have You Fed The Fish, but owned, or have subsequently bought neither. Buying them seemed redundant, as I had access to these albums at the radio station at which I volunteered. So I bought this instead. It was new, it was by a guy whose music I enjoyed, but the lack of single or fanfare accompanying its release should have warned me to check first before I bought it. But it didn’t.
As it was I was house-sitting for a friend for six weeks, everything I owned packed into a spare bedroom such it was impossible to get in without unpacking the room one box or bookcase at a time. My usual source of solace, my music collection, was trapped in there somewhere, unreachable. I’d left an unhappy share house arrangement rather quickly. I was waiting to see if I would get a job which would allow me to move to the city for the first time, leaving my beloved radio station behind, if not necessarily my friends, most of whom were themselves jumping ship from town at the same time. I was, in short, in one of those moments where everything in life was up in the air and I wasn’t sure where they were landing. So to create some sort of normality I bought a CD.
I shouldn’t have been shocked I didn’t like this the first time I listened to it. I shoud’ve anticipated it was like nothing else he had done. At least it was a little quirky but mostly underplayed and formal. It was the onset of the flu on top of everything else which ensured I became receptive to its restrained, stately melancholy. One is an album about death after all: of his friend, his grandfather in World War II and, as some may argue, Gough’s musical career.
But being able to revel in its intimate sadness was a coincidental benefit. I bought it to cheer myself up; in the end it helped me wallow. But looking back it was the act of buying it which was supposed to buoy me, just so I could say I owned some Badly Drawn Boy. Just for the comfort of doing something familiar and definite. It’s not the best reason to buy music, but I’m sure everyone does it from time to time.

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