Review Summary: Too soon.
All David Gray does is confuse me and for an artist with such a straightforward style that's pretty difficult. But it's not a good thing, because the reason David Gray confuses me is that David Gray sounds confused. Five years passed between Life In Slow Motion
and last year's Draw The Line
and now just a year later we've got a new collection of songs from the Manchester-born singer-songwriter. And apparently, this is the album he's always wanted to record. I'm not one for second-guessing artists but I'm calling bullshi
Having said that I can see where he's coming from: the first 3 tracks of Foundling
seem to hint at some truly great potential and, more importantly, they kick out at the usual criticisms of Gray by not being completely predictable once you've heard the first chord.
There's a pensive quality to the opening trio, a hint of something more gentle which even graces the louder climax of the title-track, and 'Forgetting' is probably the bravest thing he's committed to record in a long time - not that that's an overly difficult feat to achieve - crawling at a painfully beautiful pace throughout and containing some of his best one-liners.
And then 'Gossamer Thread' happens and it's the most disappointing thing you've heard this month, and not even because it's a bad song, but because it's such
a David Gray song. Granted, he doesn't try to re-write 'Babylon' anywhere on Foundling
but that's not the only typical David Gray song: he's got the slow, thoughtful ballads (which 'Forgetting' pretends to be but eclipses by its tenderness); he's got the mid-tempo jangling guitar numbers like everything from Life In Slow Motion
but without the atmosphere or context (here, see 'Gossamer Thread', 'The Old Chair' and 'When I Was In Your Heart'; and he's got the bouncy 'Fugitive'-style songs which his 2009 LP was packed full of but don't make an appearance a year later.
And then to top it off, two mid-album songs ('We Could Fall In Love Again Tonight' and 'When I Was In Your Heart') drift through dreary melodies and unaffecting lyrics to the extent that they might as well not exist. They certainly don't belong on a track listing alongside 'Forgetting', 'Only The Wine', 'Davey Jones' Locker' or 'A New Day At Midnight'. And why the re-issue of that old song? It's a good track, undoubtedly, but it sums up the problem with Foundling
by way of its inclusion; haste and carelessness. This is an album which feels rushed except for its stand-out moments; it genuinely sounds half-finished, and if it's the album Gray has always wanted to write, you have to wonder why that would be the case. The feeling's made worse by the way your expectations are raised for the first ten minutes, but truth be told, Foundling
marks the low point of Gray's back catalogue.