David Gray
A New Day At Midnight


3.0
good

Review

by Med57 EMERITUS
January 16th, 2005 | 4 replies | 4,160 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist


Released: 2002 (East West)

Following the release of his 1998 crossover album White Ladder, David Gray suddenly found to himself shot to stardom in the UK, less so in the USA, and most notably in Ireland, where it became the biggest selling album by a solo artist of all time. However, successful and impressive as this album was, there was one flaw with it: it so overshadowed Gray’s career, that he was constantly going for one more tour, one more promotional appearance. For a man who would only otherwise really have been known for a brief support slot with Radiohead, this quite naturally set back any work on a new album hugely. Similarly, personal upheaval played a huge part in the making of this album. The death of his father, and Gray himself becoming a father naturally affected the recording process, and both of these have a notable effect on the album.

The songs:
1. Dead In The Water. Along with the final track on the album, this was the song that initially was played on the radio, and it immediately heralds something of a change in Gray's sound. While nothing radical has happened, the song is much darker than many of those on White Ladder, with lyrics referring to "The killer's angel eyes, an armageddon sky". The actual song itself is still based around the piano, but it's a strong start to the album, and reminds you that although David Gray lacks the vocal purity of other singer/songwriters (Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice), he makes up for this somewhat with more vocal strength than some others, although he'll never quite be in the same vocal league as the very best. 4.5/5.

2. Caroline. This is a stranger song, which actually starts with some pretty heavily distorted keyboard effects, which judder along in the background of the song. It's very much a love song, putting us back in White Ladder territory, although it's more complex than the songs like this contained on that album. It's telling though that this album was recorded in the same conditions as White Ladder, showing that while this may be less anthemic and more downbeat, Gray himself has fundamentally changed surprisingly little, so much as be blown along on his own wave of success and by his life. 4/5.

3. Long Distance Call. After the relative style changes present in the previous two songs, this is simpler, and washes over the listener more than anything else. It's a very pretty song, with synth keyboards in the background giving the main backing, but it lacks substance to be honest, and just moves along without ever really threatening to get into a gear that we all know David Gray to be capable of. 3.5/5.

4. Freedom. Opening with a trumpet, this is probably the longest song that David Gray has ever recorded, and is also one of the best. It's another song that draws heavily on lyrical themes surrounding death; a theme that lurks constantly throughout this album, with incredibly mournfully sung lyrics such as "Time out on the running boards, we're running, through a world that's lost its meaning". It's the kind of song that you'd probably listen to in the middle of winter when everything feels dead around you, and also features one of the most powerful vocal performances by Gray on the album. 4.7/5.

5. Kangaroo. Another love song, the lyrical content of this is rather different, and again, darker, compared to some of his other ballads. Lyrics such as "Take me to that burning bush...lead me out into to the hush", also show Gray's proficiency as a songwriter. High points of this song include the instruments in the background, which are low in the mix, but nevertheless contribute hugely to the song, and the backing vocals which come into the song sporadically. Solid but not spectacular, and therefore 4/5.

6. Last Boat To America. With a glockenspiel playing a big part in the song, and working better than you might think, this song is, in a way, typical of the album. It's nice enough to listen to, and has the odd touch, such as here when Gray's voice seems set to burst into full flight, that really impresses you, but ultimately the song doesn't fulfil its potential due to simple lack of substance. Compared with White Ladder virtually all the songs are more downbeat, but they just lack that final bit of quality in general to raise them above other artists who make albums like this. 4/5.

7. Real Love. Another of the better moments on here, largely due to a really strong vocal performance by Gray, which, as with most singer/songwriters can either make or break a song. As always on this, the band is very tight in the background, something which is due to their extensive experience together, meaning that they really know how to make Gray's ideas into reality. There's also a brilliant moment when the piano changes altogether, becoming far more driving and urgent. 4.5/5.

8. Knowhere. Although this has an appalling pun for a title, it's not quite a bad as you might suspect. Having said that, it's still one of the weaker songs here, with the music sounding over-produced, and Gray not really sounding like himself. The lyrics are also unnecessarily repetitive, with the chorus of "I don't where I, I don't what I'm..." sounding forced and staged. No real emotion, and a lack of real ideas in the music, means this gets 3/5.

9. December. Again, this is a very subdued song, with only Gray's voice rescuing it from mediocrity, although some of the guitar tone in the background is good to listen to. The lyrics are very downbeat, with lines including "All my house got blown away, walls of glass, and walls of stone got blown away". While this is quite well structured, and nice enough to listen to, again there's a maddening sense that Gray could do a song like this, but somehow make it so much better. 3.5/5.

10. Be Mine. This is one of the two best songs on the album, something which is evident pretty much from the opening moments of the song. It's got a confidence to it, something which belies the lyrical content, and the best chorus on here as well, capped by Gray's near desperate pleas of "Be mine, be mine". The keyboards in the also provide a brilliant accompaniment, with very soft breezy effects. It's one of the songs on here that Gray gets most emotional on, and is all the better for that, although the all round vocal performance is excellent as well, with far more variety being shown than on previous songs. 5/5.

11. Easy Way To Cry. It might have been unreasonable to expect the momentum of the previous song to be continued, but this could easily have been left off the album altogether without anyone noticing or caring. It's got a good string section in the background that adds a new dimension to the track, but quite frankly this is necessary to redeem an extremely monotonous plod through territory which is uninspired to begin with. 3/5.

12. The Other Side. If Be Mine is one of Gray's best songs, along with ones such as Sail Away and This Year's Love, this is his best. Written in memory of his dead father, this won the prestigious Ivor Novello award in Britain for lyrical content, and features Gray alone at a piano, singing in a very raw voice beautifully symplistic lyrics that really do speak for themselves. Although drums appear in the track, they very much serve solely to back up Gray, whose voice is clearly the focal point here. The song ends suddenly, with the couplet, "Honey now if I'm honest, I still don't know what love is", ending the album on a very downbeat note. This song gets 5/5 without a shadow of a doubt.

Comparisons with White Ladder were inevitable. However, this record, although following the same formula, is rather different. It's darker throughout, has arguably better stand out moments, but is ultimately not quite up to the standard of its predecessor, due to the number of tracks on here which aren't really particularly inspired. Maybe it was his personal life, maybe it was the pressure that got to Gray, but it's probably fair to say that he could have made a stronger album than this, and it remains to be seen what his next album will be like, given that I have heard nothing about it nearly 2 years on. He still makes a surprisingly good and charismatic stage act, and has become a fixture on the festival circuit, but overall this album doesn't do his chances of shaking of a largely undeserved reputation as a middle of the road, bland singer any good.

Final Rating: 3/5.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Dancin' Man
October 26th 2004



719 Comments


I'll look into this a bit. I know there's better, but this can't be bad either.

Med57
Moderator
October 27th 2004



1001 Comments


[QUOTE=Fast Fingers]I'll look into this a bit. I know there's better, but this can't be bad either.[/QUOTE]


Yeah..it's not bad, just not especially good really. Probably worth checking out if you like the genre.

Tapeworm
October 27th 2004



118 Comments


I always consider buying this album, because I love White Ladder, but I never knew if it was any good. Seems like I should buy it.

Nicely done.

Deathapalooza04
October 31st 2004



7 Comments


It's good, but probably my least favorite of David Grays work.



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