It's hard to remember, listening to Have You Fed the Fish
, that Badly Drawn Boy was once derided as lo-fi. On Damon Gough's third album, everything is writ large, his wobbly and whimsical songs transformed into bombastic epics. Finally, his much-vaunted Springsteen
obsession starts making sense. For this is Gough's LA record, an extravagant conceit that really shouldn't work but, more often than not, does. Essentially, it's big music about simple things, love letters from California back home to his wife in Manchester. So when he tackles the sweet mundanities of domestic life on the title track, he plasters sentiments usually found on post-it notes across 40-foot billboards. The results are oddly moving, especially on "You Were Right", where dreams of a love triangle with Madonna and the Queen and memories of various celebrity deaths become a meditation on not taking anything for granted. Frequently, it's absurd, too: especially the crotchety funk of "Using Our Feet" and the Nilsson-ish Vaudeville of "Tickets to What You Need". Beware, though, because the grandiose production makes Gough's customarily fine songs not quite as accessible as usual--a few listens are needed before their charms cut through the flash. --John Mulvey
"I'm born again, found my soul again" proclaims Badly Drawn Boy Damon Gough early on during his new album Have You Fed The Fish? Indeed, the music found on this recordsounds like it was made by a man who has been re-born and is full of the joys of life.
This feeling is summed up in the title track when Gough sings "You've got to rewind to go forward, there's some good times around the corner". Obviously he has been doing some life contemplation since his 2000 debut, the Mercury Music Award winning album, The Hour Of Bewilderbeast. He's in love, has two kids and is generally happy as can be; "I don't know how I could've lived without you, but certainly I know that I'm not about to" ("You Were Right"). But fans of his depressed side will be pleased to know that he still gets a bit down from time to time; "We've got to face the thought of loneliness again... ("What is it Now?")
Jaunty pop is the order of the day here. "40 Days 40 Fights" and "What Is It Now?" are real foot tappers that raise a smile with their humorous lyrics; "We need a holiday but not today, another day..." The piano is at the heart of his songs. All the other instruments seem happy to fit around the simple piano beats and rhythms. Add Gough's distinctive and throaty voice and you have a winning combination. Gough's vocals manage to be melancholic yet chirpy and amusing whether singing about love or regret, as seen on the wonderfully bittersweet "You Were Right"; "Madonna lived next door and I think she took a shine to me...but I had to turn her down because I was still in love with you".
Gough has something rare in the world of indie rock; he's a superb storyteller who makes life affirming pop music. You find yourself sitting down and listening intently to his tales and life and love. "About A Boy" author Nick Hornby recognised this talent and asked Gough to produce the soundtrack to the film earlier this year. The subsequent album of the same name is possibly the best film soundtrack ever made.
Have You Fed The Fish? is another successfulstep on Badly Drawn Boy's haphazard journey towards superstardom.
Like This? Try These:
Supergrass - Life on Other Planets
Richard Ashcroft - Human Conditions
Bjork - Greatest Hits --Dan Tallis
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