"My creation has drowned me", croons Liam Hayes on opening track "Whose Blues", and, bearing in mind the fascinating back story which surrounds the making of "Fed", it's not hard to discern what he's talking about. After the release of his debut single "Three Quarters Blind Eyes/Found a Little Baby" in 1994, Hayes didn't actually release his debut album until four years later; "More You Becomes You" was a spare though beautiful set of delicate piano ballads clearly heavily influenced by Burt Bacharach's more instropective moments, but as accomplished as that record was, it was rumoured that "More You Becomes You" was just a stopgap to buy the chicago native some time while he worked on his magnum opus. Hayes has always had a reputation for being an obsessive perfectionist, and this stubborness almost drove him to the brink of financial and personal ruin while overseeing the torturous recording process for "Fed"; he had actually written the songs which make up the album by the late 90's, but spent the next three years painstakingly recording and then repeatedly re-recording his songs with the help of engineer Steve Albini and a stellar assembly of renowned soul veterans including arranger Tom Tom MMLXXXIV and drummer Mason Jennings until he was satisfied with the results. Naturally, the cost of hiring these talents was hard on Hayes pocket; By the time "Fed" was released in 2002, he had incurred a debt of almost 100,000 dollars, and perhaps unsurprisingly, found that no label in the United States were willing to pay the licensing fees required to distribute the record, which left Hayes in limbo, considering he had borrowed money from his friends and family to realise his vision. Eventually Japanese label After Hours agreed to buy the rights but only on the condition that the album could never be released outside Japan, which must have been a particularly bitter blow for Hayes, to spend eight years crafting your defining statement only to discover that most people will likely never hear it. Hayes still remains five years after it's release a mostly unknown quantity, and this is a shame as this man's ambition, dedication to his craft and sheer talent puts most other singer-songwriters today in the shade. His style is unique in the modern music scene as he really doesn't sound like any contemporary artists. The songs on "Fed" evoke the likes of Todd Rundgren and Harry Nilsson without descending into imitation and he expertly fuses elements of R & B and blues into a powerful and distinctive whole. The complete opposite of his previous album which was simple and minimal, "Fed" is overloaded with horns, strings and brass, almost to the point where it seems like the songs are gonna burst at the seams due to sheer excess. The fact that it somehow works is a credit to Hayes and Albini who have created a lush and richly textured sound which I guess isn't surprising really considering the amount of time and money which was expended on the project. "Fed" is also unique in that the lyrics often document the making of the album, giving a window into Hayes's anguish during the process, and the overriding theme is that of a socially maladjusted man who is obsessively fixated on his goals to the detriment of his personal relationships. However, this is not to say that the record is bleak, far from it; in fact, the 14 tracks are positively overflowing with jauntiness and good vibes; Hayes does a nice line in self-deprecation - poking fun at his uncomprising nature on "Blown Away" with the line "somebody told me I was great/maybe it was my mother", and also on the brilliant pop moment "Greyhound Bus Station", which contains the gem "everyone said that I was too far gone/to sing this song". I have no doubt that "Fed" will come to be regarded as one of the great "lost" albums due to the fact that people love mythology when it comes to music, as Kevin Shields and Brian Wilson would no doubt testify, but above all else, what grants this album classic status in my opinion, is that fact that the likes of "I've Changed My Number" and "No Education" are loaded with memorable hooks and feature some of the most beautiful vocals you're likely to hear anywhere, courtesy of Hayes fragile but expressive voice, which squeezes every last ounce of emotion out of every note. I'm one of the dedicated few who plumped up the cash to buy a copy of the cd from Japan, and I've decided to post it in it's entirety on this blog, for the simple reason that I don't think people should be denied the chance to hear a release of this quality.
Plush - "Fed" - http://www.megaupload.com/?d=IGX8E35J