Fingertips Explores the Archives: Badly Drawn Boy - Once Around the Block
Jeremy from Fingertips is back with a new column! You may remember him previously on the site with the Fingertips Music Guide to betterPropaganda. He'll be joining us each week as he scours the betterPropaganda archives, highlighting gems buried a few years back in our database.
Whether you heard this song when it came out as a single in 1999 or are just hearing it for the first time now, whether you have heard it in the context of the album it found its way onto (Badly Drawn Boy's widely-praised The Hour of Bewilderbeast, released in 2000) or in the middle of a friend's mixtape, "Once Around the Block" never fails to sound like a bolt from the blue, unlike anything around it. The jazzy wah-wah guitars, the brisk, bittersweet shuffle, the mellow and melodic lead guitar, and the chorus-free, ramblingly baffling lyrics combine to create a sound and atmosphere that stands all but free of time and place. The song is also all but free of distinct meaning: phrases tumble from Damon Gough's mouth, propelled by the grooviest melody in the indie rock canon, but damn if this isn't one elusive way to say "I want this girl." Before long, he gives up on words entirely; the second half of the song finds him in "doo-ba-doo" mode, which heightens the grooviness of the melody, harkening back to a "Swinging London" sound. But then the vibe is deconstructed by the scratchy vinyl effect it bumps into, showing us that we're nowhere really but in Gough's wool-capped head all along. For three minutes and forty-five seconds, it's a pretty impressive place to be.
- Jeremy Schlosberg