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Album Review: Badly Drawn Boy - Have You Fed The Fish? (1 Viewer)

Badly Drawn Boy - Have You Fed The Fish?

Copyright 2002

All songs by Badly Drawn Boy

This Album has been on my stereo, on and off, for weeks. That probably gives away the fact that this is a favourable review, but I don't give a twopenny rip! I apologise for the relative lack of quality but this very much a spur of the moment job. No editing... Yikes! So don't criticise too harshly.

Have You Fed The Fish? is a weird and wonderful self-produced album from British Wunderkind, Damon Gough a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy. Not averse to eccentricities, his third album marks a deliniation towards the more mainstream. His first album, muchly liked by our own resident eccentic (Mr. Mucha) is an electro-folk work in the style of Beck Hansen. Gough's soundtrack for the hit film About a Boy brought him and (dying ducks) to the mainstream consciousness. Gough's influence are varied, from the obvious (The Beatles) to the obscured (20s Vaudeville), he marries a Dylanesque lyrical approach to an eclectic condensation of 20th century music.

HYFTF? starts with a subtly self-deprecating/aggrandising short, "Coming into Land" peering through the window of an aeroplane we see a cloud roughly in the shape of BDB. From there we get the epinomynous "Have You Fed The Fish?" A hymn like ode to the surreal, it swirls with masses of guitars and strings, uplifting yet never profound, exalting the banalities of life. Born Again is a sardonic take on baptism and christianity, made very clear by the accompinying video. A chugging, punky and angry background highlights the sneering but laid-back description of being "saved". "40 Days 40 Fights" is a whimsical look at a relationship, masochistic and comical at once. "All Possibilities" is, famously, the song that earned Mr. Gough 16 pounds for busking in London. It deserved much more than that, an effusive and grandly rocking piece, hit single? Should be. "You were Right" follows "I was Wrong" in a description of (presumably) Damon's relationship with a signifigant other. "You Were Right" is my personal favourite, evoking Dylan in his "Highway 61 Revisted" period. A folky but highly electric performance, with a tinge of sadness as he tells of a wasted life, "doing nothing as John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckly died". The middle track is aptly named "Centrepeace" and on a record we would change to side two...

Which opens with a chimy ballad, "How?" but in the best possible taste, or so it seems. Almost clinging, it is rescued by the vaudeville guitar, time signature change and soul-boy crescendo - "How can I give you the things that you need when all I possess is a melody?". This melts into a white boy funk "The futher I slide" evoking Stevie Wonder, but with a ukele beat(!). Brilliant. Imaginary imagines a lover with a body next to his, again with that 20s feel, destroying any over-seriousness that may have been implied... More soul rhythm "Using Our Feet" with exemplary backing vocals from Charlotte Gainsbourg. "Tickets To What You Need" is an almost Split Enz like excercise in showbiz music, with more apparent sincerity and less rococco mannerisms. "What is it now?" seems to be an attempt to take off stadium rock riffage that comes off superbly, Charlotte Gainsbourg again putting in a superb performance. The album ends with the "lullaby" of "Bedside Story" that chugs along in a melodic but suitably dreamy fashion with many an instrumental break, showing BDBs prg inclinations.

The album is not entirely flawless and there were moments where Gough verged on being slightly cloying. However the fact that this sounds like real songs and real music is suprising in the current climate. The length of the songs was a change, too, many where over 5 minutes long, which suggests and appreciation for the prog mentality, this I find almost gratifying as it rallies against the more destructive restrainst of the three minute pop song. It is different too from the overblown "alternative" Jeff Buckley (A big influence on BDB, by the way...) style, there is soul searching, but BDB's Englishness and sense of irony keeps it from edging into the pretentious agony sometimes evident in their work. We see in some examples of singer-songwriters (Alanis Morrisette) the style of singing that delibirately wrenches every drop of meaning from the words, not so for BDB, he merely matter of factly tells his story, letting the listener think for themselves.

BDB is not be taken too seriously as I'm sure he himself would attest, the cover suggests the excesses of Frank Zappa, while the jazz proclivities suggest the Bonzo Dog Doo Da Band. Despite this, BDB has created an accomplished piece of work that will hold up for many years to come. His songwriting skills and the quantity of well-written songs suggest the abilities of a Nick Lowe or Paul McCartney to come up with both quality and quantity. A true English eccentric, to use the cliched phrase, and one who has created a niche of his own with this departure from Beck's wake.

Overall this is possibly one of the few albums of 2002 that I have allowed onto my stereo for more than a week and it holds hidden depths for those who return to it. Which is more than I can say for so-called greats like Paul McCartney (whose last album was less than brilliant, to say the least). If I have to give art a rating I will give this...


Joel Cardwell


Can't find the music thread , so here goes :

Favourite Song ( Of any Decade ) :

FOOLS GOLD by The Stone Roses ;

DUEL by Propaganda ;



Favourite Film ( of any decade ):


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