Album Review: David Gray, “Life In Slow Motion” (2005)

One of my favorite T.V. shows is Scrubs, and besides providing me with tons of comic relief, it has also turned me on to a lot of great music. From the sitcom, I discovered bands like The Eels, Colin Hay,and more recently, David Gray. The British singer-songwriter has had several songs featured on the show (including his 2001 hit, Please, Forgive Me), and after downloading a few of his earlier hits, I decided to pick up his latest (and seventh album), Life in Slow Motion.

Gray’s album is a combination of quiet string ballads, soft vocals and thoughtful lyrics. In a world of similar bands like Coldplay, Aqualung, and Snow Patrol, it’s hard to stand apart, though Gray’s album tries to do just that.

The album begins with the strong opening track, Alibi. The song starts off with strings before adding in brass and a full orchestra. The instrumentation subsides to simple piano and Gray’s voice. It took me forever to find out what this song is about; the lyrics aren’t incredibly complex, but Gray seems to be mumbling through the words, and it’s so bad that I actually had to read the lyrics to get any of the lyrics correct. Despite this, his voice sounds good, and this is the only song on the album with this problem. The lush orchestration and melody, however, make up any problem with the lyrics.

The One I Love follows, and was a significant hit single from the album. Simple lyrics like “Tell the repo man/And the stars above/That you’re the one I love”, provide the backdrop for a sweet love song and a catchy chorus adds to the likeability of the song. Lately is a bit more slowly placed, with soft guitar leading into the first verse and Gray’s opening vocals. Again, strong and catchy choruses (“Honey lately I’ve been way down/A load on my mind”) make the song.

The title song, Slow Motion proves to be another favorite. The track opens with a haunting piano and guitar melody, and then leads into a hushed melody and surreal lyrics (“Did I imagine or do the walls have eyes/Did I imagine they held us hypnotized/Did I imagine or do the walls have eyes”). Both lyrically and musically the song doesn’t seem to go much of anywhere, but Gray’s voice is so smooth and such a treat to listen to that I actually don’t mind. Also, producer Marius de Vries gives the song a polished, yet eerie, sound that works beautifully.

David Gray - Seattle - 2010

From here on, the album dives into mediocrity. From Here You Can Almost See The Sea tries to be clever with imaginative lyrics (“Little puppy dog in a box /Somebody’s picking the locks/Must want the darn from the socks/Here comes the cavalry/From here you can almost see the sea”), but the track is simply too dull to leave much of an impression. Ain’t No Love is even more boring than its predecessor, and even the lyrics aren’t worth reading. Hospital Food starts off odd, with a synethsized-80’s sounding beat, but it turns into an even less interesting track similar to some of the boring songs before it. Worst of all is Nos Da Cariad (please don’t ask me to translate), which is simply so bad because it starts off with a beautiful piano/string interlude and then fades into nothingness by the chorus.

The album comes to a close after only ten tracks with Now and Always and Disappearing World. The first of the two begins quietly with harmonica and then builds up to another heavily orchestrated track (including drums). Lyrically, Gray borrows a page from that of Lately, with a simple and sweet chorus (“You’re in my mind baby/Now and always”), however, the song sounds strangely similar to the aforementioned one, and it’s not exactly a good thing. Disappearing World at least leaves the album on a good note; the beautiful piano-based melody, picturesque and contemplative lyrics (“Night falling on the city/Quite something to behold/Don’t it just look so pretty/This disappearing world”) blend nicely with Gray’s soothing vocals.

Life In Slow Motion isn’t exactly a bad album, but it isn’t exactly a good album either. While the disc starts off strong, the pace seems to slow down to that of a snail’s by the middle, and the songs easily blend together. This is the kind of music to play while reading a textbook- not boring enough to make studying harder, yet not interesting enough to distract you from anything either.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Alibi
2. The One I Love
3. Lately
4. Nos Da Cariad
5. Slow Motion
6. From Here You Can Almost See The Sea
7. Ain’t No Love
8. Hospital Food
9. Now And Always
10. Disappearing World

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aM8saMdA04]
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