October 31, 2002
Badly Drawn Boy : Have You Fed The Fish?
If he still sounds semi-conscious half the time, so be it
8 / 10
Damon Gough could put his shopping list to music and it would still sound like he'd hit a nerve. "I need a new eiderdown", he croons on the title track, just to rub it in. This is his art: making the little things seem worthy of celebration (hence the title: his pet goldfish will clearly be delighted).
Expectations are there to be confounded. Having gained a reputation via a series of skittish EPs and live shows even The Libertines would consider shambolic, he duly released a beautifully structured hour-long debut album. Then, having assiduously cultivated an image as bashful scruffbag with only a tea-cozy to his name he promptly penned the platinum-selling soundtrack to About A Boy and announced himself to Hollywood.
He's done it again. 'Have You Fed The Fish?' confirms he will be making the charts look untidy for some time yet. Musically the acoustic whimsy of 'Hour Of…' has been traded for a deeper shade of melancholy first glimpsed on 'Silent Sigh'. Electric guitars crunch confidently under the watchful eye of Beck producer Tom Rothrock. Lyrically Damon uses surrealism to express bewilderment at his new jetset life. "I'm turning Madonna down," he joshes not once but twice (on 'You Were Right' on 'Tickets To What You Need') which, frankly, is just showing off. On 'Using Our Feet' the former pauper turns Prince. Spacey disco drums; dreamy, dislocated vocals: all it lacks is the purple jumpsuit. 'How' tops them all. "How can I give you the answers you need/When all I posess is a melody" he sighs, over a tune to rival even 'Once Around The Block'.
If he still sounds semi-conscious half the time, so be it. Three albums into his misleading career and Damon Gough, it seems, can still write strange, life-affirming pop music in his sleep.
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