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"How can I give you the answers you need when all I possess is a melody?" sings Badly Drawn Boy's Damon Gough on his latest release, Have You Fed the Fish?

Well, thanks to a little self-discipline and sympathetic production from Tom Rothrock, the questions hardly seem to matter anymore. Perhaps working within the confines of a soundtrack (for last year's About a Boy) -- and hence someone else's vision -- helped Gough focus. Or maybe he finally realized his true talents. Whatever the case, he's taken the same sort of artistic leap Beck made with Odelay -- from talented slacker to true auteur.

Have You Fed the Fish? is a wondrous, enrapturing collection of pop tunes, smartly written and beautifully arranged. From the glistening title track, to the softly lurching, sad/funny "40 Days, 40 Fights" to the gently insinuating finale "Bedside Story," Gough finally proves deserving of the hype he received a few years back from the always-quick-to-jump-the-gun English music press.


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