It might be hard to believe but over the course of his career, David Gray has released 11 albums, with perhaps his most well known collection, White Ladder featuring hits including ‘This Year’s Love’ and ‘Sail Away’ celebrating its 20th anniversary last year. Now, after a break of four years, he’s back with his latest offering, Gold In A Brass Age and sadly it doesn’t live up to anywhere near the hype or listenability of the White Ladder record or many that followed.
Beginning with ‘The Sapling’, which opens with a simple but toe-tapping beat, the album starts off well with Gray’s distinctive vocal taking centre stage, however the song itself is fairly flat and lacking that little something to make it memorable. The title track, again with a toe-tapping back-beat, ‘Gold In A Brass Age’, starts off struggling very much in the same way, however it is rescued somewhat by the chorus and the tempo of the track picking up as the song plays out. From there, things go, for the most part, downhill.
The melancholy tone to ‘Furthering’, together with how slow it is and the use of both a vocoder and autotune, makes the track one of the weakest – if not the weakest – on the album as it’s not suitable for repeat listens especially if you’re feeling low and comes across as considerably bland. One of the strongest moments – and there are very few – on the collection arrives with the first notes of ‘A Tight Ship’, and despite being led by little more than a hand-clap and somewhat limited instrumentation, it evokes memories of just how good Gray used to be back in his heyday – the song is as stirring and memorable as the likes of many inclusions on his, yes, you guessed it, White Ladder album.
The reflective attitude he projects via ‘Watching The Waves’ is strange, as he more murmurs the lyrics than actually sings them, but at least in feeling reflective, the listener can take what he says in either positive or negative manner depending on their own personal outlook. The arrangement to ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ meanwhile is good, albeit experimental and quite atmospheric and the use of sax, blended with some rather unexpected operatic samples as it builds to a surprising, but not half bad, climax makes ‘Hurricane Season’ one of the better inclusions on the album.
Closing number ‘If 8 Were 9′ sees the album end very much as it started – with Gray’s vocal leading the piece, but with little to the track in general to make a listener need or want to press repeat. David Gray may have a 26 year recording career behind him but on the back of this collection, quite whether he has another decade or even a few more years of success ahead of him remains to be seen. White Ladder this album most certainly is not.
Gold In A Brass Age is released this Friday on IHT.