David Gray - White Ladder (Iht)
David Gray has always been the patron saint of wind-swept cities, open fires and lost love. And David Gray has always been the man to mend our broken hearts with a single strum. David Gray has never been the little-drum-machine-boy, readily embracing samplers and computers, until now. Still firmly clutching his acoustic guitar, he's tapping keys and pushing buttons like never before and, surprisingly, it works. "We're Not Right" delivers some PJ Harvey bleeps, giving a pop taste to a tale of excess, "Betty Ford won't you be my valentine/My hands are shaking but I just can't stop". And "Silver Lining" mixes a drum-machine and The Frames' fiddle-king Colm Mac Con Iomaire to delicate, twisted-fairytale effect.
But it's the album's simpler moments that really stand out. With piano backing, "This Years Love" is a stunningly raw anthem for anyone who's ever had their heart broken. And there's an amazing version of Soft Cell's magnificent "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye", where he manages to pour in even more heartache than Marc Almond which is not an easy task. "White Ladder", is easily David Gray's darkest record to date but it's also the closest he's come to pure pop. He's one of the few people who could mix black and white and not end up with grey. The hopeless becomes the heavenly, the troubled are triumphant. Each song hits you like a three-and -a-half minute Valium. And for fifteen quid that's pretty good going.
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