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CD Reviews:  David Gray: A New Day at Midnight

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After toiling in obscurity the better part of the 1990s, David Gray, dead broke and ready to call it a day, gave the world White Ladder, a divine meditation on love, love gone wrong, and love just gone. The album pulled a stunt similar to Moby's Play, shifting units solely on word of mouth and critical praise for the first few months. Then radio stepped in, found one song on the album ("Babylon"), and positively beat it to death. Gray finally had a million seller, but it appeared as if it was going to come at a huge price. 

And that it did. Gray's new album, A New Day At Midnight, is the work of a man who knows when he's licked. He sounds as if he couldn't be bothered with maintaining the level of success White Ladder afforded him, but that's more a matter of necessity than a matter of choice. The simple fact is, while A New Day At Midnight sounds more expensive (ironically, White Ladder still sounds better), the songwriting is too underwhelming to save the day. Fan fatigue as a result of his radio overexposure doesn't help matters, either. One Hit Wonder status seems inevitable. 

Give Gray credit for recognizing this fatigue and addressing it on the very first track, "Dead in the Water." "Crackles on the mic / Call it what you like / We're dead in the water now." It's one of the better songs here, but accidentally exposes nearly everything that follows as second-tier. "Caroline" is a distant relative to "Please Forgive Me" though it lacks the hook and the lyric, and while a trip through the lyrics reveals heartache and loss (mainly with regard to the death of his father), there is nothing that speaks as clearly or rings as truly as "This Year's Love" or the definitive line from "Babylon": "Let go of your heart, let go of your head / And feel it now."

Those last four words really say it all; while none of us can judge the sincerity of Gray's words, a lack of feeling permeates the entire record. Whether that's due to the lack of support those words are receiving musically is a possibility, but the end result is the same. A New Day At Midnight is as bleak as its title implies, and it's starting to look like one of those Alaskan sunsets, where the sun doesn't rise for months. 

David Medsker

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