Carrie & Lowell
It’s one of those perennial unanswerable questions: why do people who win the lottery go on working?
Having released White Ladder 16 years ago, David Gray need never work again. The Manchester singer-songwriter’s fourth album, it spawned the inescapable single Babylon, spent three years on the UK album chart, went nine times platinum and sold more than seven million copies around the globe.
Yet Gray has continued to churn out albums every two years or so, each of them pale, redux versions of White Ladder, none of them remotely as successful: 2010’s dreary Foundling barely scraped into the Top 20. You can only think he goes on because he loves making music so much that he can’t live without it.
The strange thing is, there is no evidence of this creative need or drive on his tenth offering, Mutineers. It’s 11 more slices of Gray business as usual: mannered, muted slices of mild angst, leavened with soft-focus positivity and Coldplay-style lyrical platitudes.
Admittedly, a sense of quiet euphoria undercuts many tracks, in contrast to his image as a professional miserabilist. The jaunty Back in the World finds him whooping ‘I’m naked like a tree, it’s the only way to be’; Bird of the High Arctic is a wracked, Elton John-style power ballad; the lush electronic textures of Girl Like You could be James Blake and betray the influence of Lamb’s Andy Barlow as producer.
Yet more typical are the plodding Beautiful Agony, which is neither beautiful nor anguished but is somewhat interminable, and the will-this-do lyrical truisms of As The Crow Flies. You see, that’s the problem with people who win the lottery and go on working: they tend to be a bit boring.