Mutineers … Mister G.’s new album. Took him five years! Worth the wait?
First of all, a rather appropriate title for this medium-late chapter in the love story of Mister G. and Mister D. (a story only the latter is aware of, naturally).
Why? Well, I was veeery close to becoming mutinous with this Englishman after his last couple of albums. Not that I hated them, not at all, but I also couldn’t quite come around to truly loving them either. Even after many intensive listening sessions, I was always left with this feeling of “not bad, but nothing special”. Granted, a tough task for any artist to continuously come up with “something special” or “something even better” than the previous, especially for David after his 1998 masterpiece “White Ladder” – one of those records I would put amongst the infamous three to take to a deserted island with me. (Note to myself: Nobody ever asks you how you would actually listen to that record on a deserted island … ah whatever.)
Ever since David chose to sing about a “Life in Slow Motion”, that’s also kind of what happened to my infatuation with his music: A slow-motion of drifting apart, again only noticed by the D. side of the relationship, I presume.
Then a good friend of mine forwards a Financial Times article to me, an interview with David Gray, about birds (with and without wings), and about his new album – I wasn’t even aware that there was a new album forthcoming, that’s how detached I had become, never happened before. The interview was also about mutining your life, throwing all that’s behind you over board, starting anew, in fresh waters, into fresh air, like the many birds on this great new record.
Even while reading the article, I opened my Spotify treasure chest, checking. There it was, only three tracks pre-released for streaming, the first single’s title “Back in the World”. Back in mine? Sure feels good, to shake the monkey off my back …
As the first chords resound: White Ladder feeling, at least justified hope. The initial lines go:
“Every day when I open my eyes now
It feels like a Saturday
Taking down from the shelf
All the parts of myself that I packed away.”
I was taken away on the spot, by the sound, the mood, the “Please forgive me”-like percussion, the lyrics, and the voice, of course, strong as ever.
The second track available was “Beautiful Agony”. Hell yeah, the beauty of melancholy! My hidden passion. David singing about
“Love vandalising me
With beautiful agony.”
Who doesn’t know what he’s talking about? And then this calm, non-vandalising melody, moving from mantra to story with a free fall into minor keys accompanying the lines “Once upon a time / It wasn’t like this / Love was mine / So what the hell / Is happening here?”.
The third track: “Gulls”. A meditative album ending (as the partly inactive 11-track list suggested), an end-is-the-beginning-like song. The narrator maybe standing on the edge of a windy cliff, watching gulls fly, independent, yet somehow belonging to their cries, and their cries belonging to the wind … and the wind?
David’s rendition of “You Gotta Serve Somebody”?
“I gave my breath to the song
To the song, wasn’t mine
Neither of ship not of sea
Neither of glass nor of wine.”
LOVE RELOADED, after 3 songs!
And oh, how I love this percolating impatience, to get more, to hear the rest. This instant move to an online retail store, clicking “pre-order now”, and then waiting … waiting … waiting. Waiting for and then finally receiving a parcel, a vintage, deluxe feeling in the age of “I want it now, I get it now!” Of course I ordered the deluxe edition, with tons of new live recording of old songs. Arrived yesterday, and now I’m listening my way through the remaining 8 tracks … Soccer World Cup my behind!
But how did this lopsided love story between Mister G. and Mister D. begin in the first place?
Let me recall “the early years” … in Part 2 of this mutineer’s anecdote.
… How stumbling in a record store turned out to be a very consequential trip.
… And why “Sail Away” is responsible for “This Year’s Love” turning into “This Life’s Love”.