It was an odds-on favorite that Badly Drawn Boy's warped yet sunny vision of pop would fit in well with a Nick Hornby novel-turned-movie (especially one about a sensitive, literate, slightly confused man struggling with the responsibilities of most persons his age). Still, there were several unknowns going into the project. Could an artistic iconoclast like Damon Gough control himself when forced to conform by writing a set of songs for specific situations? Would his collection of eccentric production touches, pure honey to any introspective music fan, make any sense in the context of a highly anticipated, wide-release film? Could he even write an entire soundtrack, during an era when most artists hardly average an album every three years? While a first listen proves that Gough's songwriting smarts are so powerful and wide-ranging they work in any context (much less pop songs for movies), several listens are necessary for its real brilliance to shine through. In a similar fashion to the work of Harry Nilsson, his closest pop forebear, a Badly Drawn Boy song is deceptively simple; his pleasant melodies often cloak a set of sharp, thoughtful lyrics and many graceful harmonic turns. Gough's voice, emotional with just a hint of gravel, sounds perfect behind the Hollywood sheen of these arrangements, with Tom Rothrock behind the boards. The single "Silent Sigh" is the highlight, with Gough masterfully tripping over his lines and accentuating the title with his breathy delivery. It's the cumulative weight, however, that really impresses. Each of these songs works well -- even the tossed-off electro-pop pieces "S.P.A.T." and "File Me Away" -- in either the delightful context of the movie or as a stand-alone work. Though both artist and label hedged bets by explaining it away as an outside work and not the "official" Badly Drawn Boy sophomore album, it's difficult to imagine how Badly Drawn Boy could've improved on The Hour of Bewilderbeast any better than this astonishing work.
AllMusic Review by John Bush