Far removed from ballads such as Sail Away and This Year’s Love, the tracks adored by middle-aged romantics everywhere (and people like me), materialises a shiny new sound in David Gray’s Mutineers. Produced by Andy Barlow, this record is an entire re-branding of Gray’s anterior style.
The album commences with the feel-good number, Back In The World. Perfect for anyone feeling down on life, the lyrics are reassuring and the melody happily prods at your emotions in a subtle manner not dissimilar in effect to Lovers In Japan by Coldplay (as opposed to how Pharrell Williams’ Happy practically screams “SMILE!” in your face). The lyrics “Every day when I open my eyes now it feels like a Saturday” flood the song with an aura of tranquility. The line, accompanied by a fittingly chirpy, whimsical backing, genuinely reminds me of the blissful stretch of freedom a Saturday morning provides. Perhaps the composition is a little mushy for some, especially as an acoustic guitar’s twee staccato intermingles with Gray’s “I’m naked like a tree; it’s the only way to be”. However, I am a huge enthusiast of romantically well-written songs which have the potential to lift my mood. The words “If it’s love lifts us up from the dark / Is it God by another name?” make me want to run around a field wearing a crown of daisies.
Nevertheless, even the cheery melody of Cake And Eat It cannot reconcile the song’s purposeless, repetitive lyrics. “I want my cake and eat it” is reeled off continuously, where grammatical correctness is sacrificed for fewer syllables. The only emotional connection I receive from this track is a reminder of how much I love cake… Where was I? Oh yes. A few of the songs such as The Incredible are a little slow and monotonous. If you enjoy chilled music then As The Crow Flies is a winner, albeit fairly in distinctive. The only prevalent spark is encapsulated in a gorgeous closing harmonic reiteration of “Baby take me wise like the old crow flies”.
Gulls had the potential to be similarly uninspiring, opening with familiar low pitched legato piano notes which the aforementioned snooze fests were seeped in. However, as the words “To walk the seeds that God sowed” recur, gradually heightening in volume with additional brisk elements of piano and electric guitar, the song upgrades itself. Amid the energy, David Gray surprises with fresh lyrics: “Oh baby, try to recognise it in my mind”. This is shortly followed by a superimposed repetition of the words “The writing’s on the wall,” and gradually each distinctly unique element manages to come together to create a beautiful collaboration of sounds.
Guitar and piano collude to create a bonny, snappy underlay throughout the majority of Mutineers, the album’s staple. The paradoxical depth of Gray’s voice is a pleasant contrast. However, I disliked the introduction of drums three and a half minutes in, detracting from the song’s delicacy and clashing with the aforementioned quick, light-hearted tune.
On the other hand, Last Summer is nostalgic and pretty - perfect for those contemplative, staring-out-of-the-train-window-watching-the-passing-scenery-whilst-listening-to-music moods. Beautiful imagery encompassed by lyrics such as “Dived, plunged into your eyes / Living every hour like a century” facilitates ensuing pondering. The second verse contributes an engaging layer of reverberating harmony and a line of percussion. Yet the true magnificence in this track presents itself in violin form; a solo easily passable as a film score which brings the song to an enchanting closure.
Girl Like You is incredibly diverse and refreshing. The lyrics echo throughout the first verse and weave around music which threefold grinds to a halt. The bridge yields a complete change of tone. Gray’s vocals come to the foreground, the pace of the piano increases and a harmony begins. The tune develops to accompany repetition of “I’m working on it” and percussion intensifies prior to an unpredictable slowing. A breath passes before the piece follows the upbeat high-pitched tones of acoustic guitar strings. The whole style is peculiarly parallel to Phil Collins’ Face Value record; the music akin to Droned and vocals closely resembling In The Air Tonight. Most appealing is that the lyrics are honest and relatable: “I’m trying to get along with my brother / But my brother is so hard to know” and “I don’t know where I want to be”. All in all, an exciting track a trillion miles away from the Cake And Eat It blip – a pleasant surprise not dissimilar to the gooey centre inside a chocolate fondant.
While there are many gems in this record - the breathtakingly bubbly Back In The World and cool older brother, Girl Like You to name a couple - I wish David Gray had waded a little less deeply into the waters of contemporary and interesting. Collaboration between old and new would be favoured over a complete refurbishment. Call me simple, but I miss the romantic songs easily sung along to. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – a mere tinkering in style would have been much better received.