There was a time when I thought David Gray’s music was insufferably boring. Either I was wrong, or I’ve become insufferably boring myself, because I’ve developed an honest appreciation — God help me, sometimes a genuine fondness — for the melancholy musings of the Welsh troubadour, in a this-is-nice-over-Sunday-breakfast sort of way. It was on an early-morning airport drive in March that I realized I’d truly crossed over: The sun was coming up over Boston Harbor, “Babylon” came on the radio, and I caught myself thinking “Wow, this song is really beautiful” before I realized what we were listening to.
Anyway, if you like David Gray, you know his albums are more or less interchangeable; the songs might be different, but the form is essentially the same. He’s tried to switch things up a bit on Life in Slow Motion, availing himself of a real big-budget recording studio rather than the bedroom setups he’s used in the past. A lot of the noise from the Gray camp regarding this album is that it’s “bigger,” but eh, I don’t know how accurate that is. The production is still pretty skeletal, although “Now and Always” is positively Sgt. Pepper-ish compared to his earlier work (and maybe the best song on the album besides.)
Gray has described this album’s music as “eloquent,” which I’ll go along with, but he’s also quite proud of his lyrics here, which is mystifying; I’m no poet, but this stuff ranges from the merely serviceable to the semi-embarrassing. He’s particularly happy with “From Here You Can Almost See the Sea,” which contains the following rhyming-dictionary groaners:
Just a parasite in a line
I’m smoking, killing the time
How long’s a piece of twine
Little puppy dog in a box
Somebody’s picking the locks
Must want the darn from the socks
I’m forever being criticized by friends and acquaintances for caring about the lyrics to pop songs. If you’re like me, you’ve heard “Nobody cares about the words” so many times you almost believe it. If this is what passes for prideworthy these days, perhaps those people have a point. I confess to absolute ignorance with regards to the words to Gray’s other songs, and I’m guessing that might be a good thing. It’ll still sound good over bagels, coffee, and the morning paper.