There was a time when I thought David Grayâ€™s music was insufferably boring. Either I was wrong, or Iâ€™ve become insufferably boring myself, because Iâ€™ve developed an honest appreciation â€” God help me, sometimes a genuine fondness â€” 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 Iâ€™d truly crossed over: The sun was coming up over Boston Harbor, â€śBabylonâ€ť came on the radio, and I caught myself thinking â€śWow, this song is really beautifulâ€ť 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. Heâ€™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 heâ€™s used in the past. A lot of the noise from the Gray camp regarding this album is that itâ€™s â€śbigger,â€ť but eh, I donâ€™t know how accurate that is. The production is still pretty skeletal, although â€śNow and Alwaysâ€ť is positively Sgt. Pepper-ish compared to his earlier work (and maybe the best song on the album besides.)
Gray has described this albumâ€™s music as â€śeloquent,â€ť which Iâ€™ll go along with, but heâ€™s also quite proud of his lyrics here, which is mystifying; Iâ€™m no poet, but this stuff ranges from the merely serviceable to the semi-embarrassing. Heâ€™s particularly happy with â€śFrom Here You Can Almost See the Sea," which contains the following rhyming-dictionary groaners:
Just a parasite in a line
Iâ€™m smoking, killing the time
How longâ€™s a piece of twine
Little puppy dog in a box
Somebodyâ€™s picking the locks
Must want the darn from the socks
Iâ€™m forever being criticized by friends and acquaintances for caring about the lyrics to pop songs. If youâ€™re like me, youâ€™ve heard â€śNobody cares about the wordsâ€ť 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 Grayâ€™s other songs, and Iâ€™m guessing that might be a good thing. Itâ€™ll still sound good over bagels, coffee, and the morning paper.