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Have You Fed The Fish?

Badly Drawn Boy
Have You Fed The Fish?
(Twisted Nerve/XL Recordings)

After releasing 3 sought-after EPs on the Twisted Nerve label, Damon Gough dropped his debut album The Hour Of Bewilderbeast to both critical and commercial success, cementing his name as a someone worth more attention than your average guy with a guitar. Self-deprecating and ambitious at the same time, he seemed to breath a bit of new life into a perenially oversaturated market. In the past couple years, he's been a pretty busy fellow, touring a fair amount, as well as releasing an albums worth of material for the recent soundtrack of the film About A Boy.

Interestingly enough, Gough seemed to insist time after time that said album was not his proper follow-up, and Have You Fed The Fish? is proof of just that. Arriving only about a half-year behind that release, his newest album once again swings wildly in terms of styles (even more so, in fact), but despite some really amazing tracks, it's a wildly inconsistent affair that takes a couple listens to sink in. Although it's really more of a sketch than anything else, the opening track of "Coming Into Land" is a perfect example of what to expect. After an opening sample of a jetline pilot, the track takes off into a flaming guitar riff coupled with layers of proggy keyboards, mallet percussion, and drums. It's completely over-the-top, sounding more like an 80's sit-com theme than anything else. The album-titled "Have You Fed The Fish" follows it up with a more solid track, but once again Gough mixes almost 80's hair-metal guitar with a touching piano melody for an odd choice of sounds. It's a testament to his ability that it comes off at all, and once it moves into a jaunty second half, the track really blooms.

From there, the album shifts again into louder rock on "Born Again," then back to hoppity folk for "40 Days. 40 Fights" before the absolutely stunning "All Possibilities." Piling lush string sounds seemingly straight from the 70's over a slick horn section and layered acoustic guitar, it easily comes in as one of the best tracks on the album, as well as one of the most hummable. "You Were Right" comes right back on a strong foot after a short incidental track, and it's again stacked with several layers of nicely intertwining sonics, as piano and strings flourish behind a catchy guitar melody. The lyrics span heartache from both relationships and the death of heroes, and goes down as one of my personal favorites that Gough has done thusfar.

After the solid middle-section, the end of the release is slightly more uneven. "Using Our Feet" is plenty funky and again riffs on that classic rock feel, but doesn't contain the hooks of the earlier tracks, while "Bedside Story" closes out the album in a fairly meandering way. Combining elements from earlier tracks (distorted guitars and plunky keyboard melodies with soaring strings), it sort of fizzles without direction, while the earlier "Ticket To What You Need" is a hilarious romp with a touch of ragtime piano. As mentioned above, taken individually, several of the tracks on the disc are the best that Gough has ever done. As a whole, the album just flows a bit inconsistenly. I've got to give him credit for throwing everything at the wall in terms of sounds and styles, but it doesn't come without a few hitches.

Rating: 7.25