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Badly Drawn Boy

Have You Fed the Fish?

Release Date: 11.05.02
Record label: Artist Direct BMG
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.


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by: bill aicher

Well before his debut release The Hour of Bewilderbeast in 2000 talk abounded in the underground "cool" rock community of Damon Gough (a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy)'s penchant for superb songwriting. Early EPs and his track on UNKLE (DJ Shadow and James Lavelle)'s Psyence Fiction album sent Gough into the collective unconscious of the rock elitists. And when Hour... was finally released in 2000, the prognosticators cheered and fans of indie slacker pop took notice.

Rather than follow up with a proper album, Gough instead opted to score the About a Boy film (based on the Nick Hornby novel). With its release, many kept a careful eye on Gough to see where Badly Drawn Boy was going for the next album. About a Boy's pop sheen did, in fact, turn a few off - hoping for another trip down Bewilderbeast lane.

The thing is, Badly Drawn Boy is a superb songwriter, arranger, and musician. About a Boy was concrete evidence of this, and his latest album, Have You Fed the Fish? continues the trend. Where Bewilderbeast found a healthy variety of somewhat sulking pop songs and interesting bits of interludes (all creating an album wholly worthy of Badly Drawn Boy's receipt of the 2000 Mercury Award), Have You Fed the Fish? is purely pop confections.

But it's damn fine pop. While at times Gough seems to be writing songs in his sleep, what's really amazing here is the lack of pretension. He's singing about his shopping list, and he's singing about dreams of Madonna and the Queen: "And I / Just had a dream the other night / I was married to the Queen / And Madonna lived next door / I think she took a shine to me / And the kids were all grown up / But I had to turn her down / Because I was still in love with you." Yeah, it sounds lazy - but every time you hear this song you'll be anxious in anticipation for the verse (and pretty much every other silly little moment here).

Sure, there are low points here ("Born Again," "All Possibilities"), but they're pretty high lows. It's kind of like comparing Season 4 of The Sopranos to the other seasons... sure it's not as good, but comparatively speaking it's still one of the best shows (artists) around. And the high points? Hell - you can't do much better for pop ditties than "40 Days and 40 Fights" and "You Were Right." Honestly.

Have You Fed the Fish? finds Badly Drawn Boy at a new point in his career. He's no longer the indie-pop art-school rocker from Bewilderbeast. No, he's an artist who's on his way to being a classic. It's just going to take a bit more time and you'll be singing these songs in a drunken stupor at your kids' weddings.
12-Aug-2002 9:04 AM