What has the field of lo-fi slacker pop come to when faced by an LP as ambitious and entertaining as Badly Drawn Boy's The Hour of Bewilderbeast? Despite all attempts to sabotage his songwriting and production with innumerable experimental tidbits, songs within a song, and (seemingly) tossed-off arrangements, Damon Gough has to face the fact that he wrote and produced over a dozen excellent songs of baroque folk-pop for his album debut, and the many gems can't help but shine through all the self-indulgence. The sprightly orchestration for cello and trumpet (Gough's own) that begin the album are eventually taken over by the sparse guitar pickings and wistful folky sunshine of "The Shining," which veers into the skewed slide guitar and ominous tone of "Everybody's Stalking." Gough rarely pauses for breath (even when he's doing a ballad) or follows any traditional sense of album flow, but after a listen or two, The Hour of Bewilderbeast is revealed as a shambling masterpiece of a pop album. Most of these songs are Gough's entirely (he plays as many as eight instruments), with occasional help from friends like Twisted Nerve co-labelhead Andy Votel and assorted drummers for accompaniment. His songwriting is great, but Gough's twisted sense of humor helps the album shine as well, as on "Fall in a River," where the down-a-lazy-river feel carries through to the point where not just Gough but the entire production is submerged with a splash and attendant warping of the sound. The Hour of Bewilderbeast surely isn't a traditional pop album, but a continually beguiling trip through lo-fi postmodern folk that draws as much from Harry Nilsson as Beck.
AllMusic Review by John Bush