Gough's fishy follow-up fails to scale the same heights

Review by Heather Metherell

BADLY Drawn Boy (the walking tea cosy) is back with his second album, Have You Fed The Fish? two years after his incredibly successful, Mercury Music Prize-winning debut, Hour of the Bewilderbeast.

The new album has the same tongue-in-cheek humour and upbeat mood as the first album, but seems to lack its clout. This is perhaps due to the fact that Damon Gough's sound was fresh in 2000, and though he still raises a smile with his quirky lyrics, we have grown used to his style.

What really stands out in this album, though, is Gough's wry sense of humour; it's refreshing to hear lyrics that make you smile, and touch you with their honesty. It was for this very reason he was chosen to write the music for the film About A Boy, and Gough cites the album as a confession of how his life has changed since his sudden rise to fame two years ago.

There is little form to the music of this album, though, especially during tracks such as Have you Fed the Fish?, which doesn't seem to know whether it's coming or going - it starts off by sounding like the soundtrack to Ghostbusters and ends up like a 70's rock ballad.

You get the feeling that Gough has so much different and varied material, he doesn't quite know how to piece it together to create a flowing sound. This could be a deliberate manoeuvre, but the effect is irritating and unsatisfactory. Once again, the lyrics are clever and original, but Gough's deadpan way of singing fails to excite.

As much as I really wanted to like this album, and admire Badly Drawn Boy as an original musician, I couldn't dismiss the urge to reach for the skip button on some, over-long, dull tracks, such as How?, that seem to meander along with no real purpose.

There are some highlights, however, which include the irrepressibly chirpy Born Again, which shows Badly Drawn Boy at his best; as the writer of great toe-tapping, sing-along tunes, while there is even a change of mood in the ska influenced, The Further I Slide, with its catchy brass hook, and upbeat lyrics; it's a real summer tune.

Overall, Have You Fed The Fish? is a bit of a slow burner, one of those albums that you only really come to appreciate after the tenth listening. Gough is still producing quality music, and it's always a refreshing change to hear some uplifting alternative music, after the depressing wallowing of bands like The Verve.

That said, it's not as exciting or as groundbreaking as Hour of the Bewilderbeast, and listeners should watch out for the homage to Chaz and Dave in Tickets To What You Need - it is definitely best avoided.

Track listings:
1. Coming Into Land
2. Have You Fed The Fish
3. Born Again
4. 40 Days 40 Fights
5. All Possibilities
6. I Was Wrong
7. You Were Right
8. CentrePeace
9. How?
10. The Further I Slide
11. Imaginary Lines
12. Using Our Feet
13. Tickets To What You Need
14. What Is It Now?
15. Bedside Story