The Boyfriend of the Week

July 3, 2003

Man, what's up with me and musicians lately? Because here we go again! And I know this must be getting tiresome for some of you, particularly you gals who keep emailing me to ask where the hell the other Band of Brothers Boyfriends are.

But the truth is, I actually had a BoB Boyfriend planned for this week, though I also had planned to delay putting him up for at least another 7 or 8 days, mostly because I hadn't even begun to write anything about him. I just wasn't feeling that inspired, even though I really like the guy a lot. I kept sitting down to write, blinking at the screen for a few moments, and then shrugging and running off to the couch to see if the game was on instead (baseball season!).

And then, as so often happens in my little world, someone else came along at the last minute and totally knocked me on my arse. I'm not sure how to describe exactly what happened, but I keep thinking about this story a friend of mine once told me. He was in some city once during some riot or another, I can't remember the details, when all of a sudden this huge silo of flour imploded with this foof! that sucked the air right out of his chest. I feel that way sometimes about music, you know what I mean? And when I felt that way about a song this week, a song I'd only heard for two minutes on a bad TV show (followed by another song by the same guy for two more minutes on a good TV show) (more on that in a moment), I immediately went on-line gasping to find out what it was, who sang it, and how I could hear more.

The answers, respectively, are: "This Year's Love," David Gray, and, well, about a dozen web sites, several different albums, and, thankfully, a reader who several months ago had emailed me about just this guy. I didn't know who he was at the time, but I miraculously managed to dig up her message. I dropped her a line, all excited, and within thirty minutes had a set of mp3's sent my way. Woo!

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let me go back to those two TV shows. The bad show, which isn't actually bad, but I feel like I have to SAY it's bad for the sake of my reputation, was "Dawson's Creek," which I've been watching from start to finish recently while it reruns on TBS (7-9am, weekdays). The good show, which is actually really good, reputation be damned, was "Without a Trace" (currently on summer hiatus, with reruns airing Thursday nights on CBS). And when you hear a voice like David's twice within a span of two hours (I had taped both shows and they were back-to-back on my tape, it was totally weird), you can't ignore the coincidence. It's just not permissible. To do so would undoubtedly upset the Great Cosmic Scheme of Things, which is never a good idea. Trust me.

After some digging and some research and some more reader finagling, I found several more David Gray songs that I recognized, probably also from television or movies, and even more David Gray songs I had never heard, but hoped to never have to never hear again. If that makes any sense (read it slowly; it'll help).

Still following me?

Now, you know how last week, I was getting all uppity about not having to apologize for my tastes in things? I'm feeling that way again this week, actually. But I'll spare you the monologue this time and suffice it to say that David Gray's music, at least the songs of his I've discovered that I like, is folksy (though in both our defense, he started out as a punk rocker). It's mostly him with a guitar or a guitar and a piano (well, wait, I'm sure it's not him and a guitar AND a piano, at least not simultaneously -- good trick) and he's singing love songs like there's nothing else left in the world to sing about. It kind of takes me back to when I was in high school, actually, back when I looked a lot like Janis Joplin and dabbled in the hippie culture for a time, listening to a variety of 1960's folk music and dreaming of the day I could get arrested for being passionate about something. Those were pretty good times for me, to be honest. Uncomplicated and thoroughly inspired.

But, of course, things change, and by my junior year, hippie culture for me had been replaced by the Culture of Teen Angst. I wore black and listened to the Smiths and railed about the unfairness of the world. After that came the punk years (senior year, plus), followed by a poorly-contrived dabble in British pop, a spin through the world of indie rock, and then back to punk in grad school, but with a more open mind this time. Despite my taste's growth and evolution, though, I've always been drawn to simple music of all genres where the root is just guitars and voices. No bells, no whistles. No drums, no bugles (well, okay, drums sometimes). Nothing fancy. Nothing electrical. Nothing faked.

So, it's no surprise (to me, anyway) that I was drawn by the sounds of David Gray. What DID surprise me was when I decided to look for a photo of him, expecting someone about sixty years old who looked like an amalgam of Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan, and instead discovering that he is a young man, roughly my age, who I could immediately tell was from the U.K. (I guessed Ireland, actually -- he has a very Irish look about him -- but he's actually a Brit). Well, hell, people! Good looking, great singing, and an accent too? I was doomed to fall into this unrequited love affair from the start!

Now, as of this writing, I have only discovered a handful of David Gray songs I like. Partly because I've only heard a handful-plus-twelve and the extra twelve were vetoed a few bars in when they began to sound too much like regular pop music. I figure fans of Gray might like to know which songs have sucked me under, and those of you who don't know his stuff might be interested in some suggestions, so here, in order of current preference, are the songs I've been listening to this week (all sample tracks use Real Player and are sourced at the official David Gray web site, www.davidgray.com):

  1. Gutters Full of Rain -- a simple, sad love song

  2. Babylon -- a catchy, upbeat love song (sample)

  3. This Year's Love -- another simple, sad love song

  4. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye -- simple, sad, love (sample)

  5. Red Moon -- lather, rinse, repeat (sample)

  6. The Other Side -- a totally hypnotizing simple, sad, love song (sample)

  7. Every Time -- a song actually called "Everytime" but everybody knows "every time" is actually two words, so I've taken the initiative here and corrected the error. You know, everybody really ought to run these things by me first, so as to avoid looking foolish down the line. Will you never learn? Sheesh.)

  8. Magdalena -- a catchy, upbeat love song.
Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are all songs I'd heard before somewhere, but it's "Gutters Full of Rain" that really grabbed at me. The lyrics are some of the most moving I've ever heard, as cheesy as that might sound, and the sound -- well, the sound is a long drive on a straight, empty freeway with your whole life in front of you, and all the mistakes and regrets of your past left in the dust behind, to go back to my automobile analogies from last week. Or, if that's not good enough, how about this: the sound is floating on your back in a pond on Cape Cod with the slap of the water repeating against a dock behind you and the cool warmth of the green world pressing up from underneath you, keeping you afloat. Or this: the sound is lying in a park in Rhode Island with a quiet friend at your side, watching the Perseid meteor shower zip around in the sky, the grass cool against your neck, your body slowly relaxing into the soft earth below. It's a feeling -- no, more like a knowledge -- that everything is all right in the world. At least right now. At least this very moment. This. Moment. Right. Here.

Stop me when I start to sound like that terrible Yoplait yogurt commercial, okay? ("It's like day at the spa good!" "It's like secret admirer good!" "It's like whacking you annoying ladies upside the head good!") Yikes. But, and maybe I'm the only one in the world who does this, sometimes when I hear a great song, I start thinking about the perfect movie scene to go along with it. And those are the scenes I've been thinking of this week (not from actual movies, but from the movies I play in my own head, based on memories from my life). A steady drive, a warm pond, a cool night in the place I consider home. If I were a movie right now, I would have a David Gray soundtrack.

Call me crazy.

No wait, don't.

Now, the good news is that we can actually do a little bio here this week, unlike with John Roderick last week, because there's plenty of information about David Gray out there on the web. Born in Manchester in 1970, David actually did most of his growing up in Wales, where he showed a yen for all things creative from an early age. Initially, he thought he might like to be an artist, so after high school, he enrolled at the University of Liverpool to pursue that career. It wasn't long, however, before he realized his real passion lay in music. He had been playing in punk bands for years and was slowly beginning to explore his own unique type of singing and songwriting. As the result of this revelation, he decided to leave Liverpool and head for London, where he could be closer to a bigger music scene. The move ended up proving beneficial -- he soon had signed on with Hut records and put out his first single "Birds Without Wings," later released on his debut album "A Century Ends." The album was a critical success, but not really a commercial one, until an Irish DJ took a shine to Dave's stuff and started to play his songs on his late-night music show. Soon the whole country was ga-ga over Gray, with a growing fan population slowly emerging and spreading the word. That was the beginning of a long-lasting love affair between David and the Irish. (And I'll be damned -- I knew Ireland was going to have something to do with this!)

In 1995, after touring for several months, David joined up with Virgin records to produce his second LP. The album was promoted by the U.S. when David became the opening act for Radiohead, another British band making big waves in North America. 1996 brought a new record company, EMI, David's way and his rockin' album "Sell, Sell, Sell" was the result. When EMI collapsed, however, Gray was left in limbo, with no way to reproduce the record and print more copies -- "Sell, Sell, Sell" is now considered out of print (though if you want a copy, I found several on Ebay and Amazon). Never one to harp on the negative, David used this time between record contracts to work on some new songs. He then started up his own label and promptly put out the album "White Ladder" in 1998. On the back of this album, he began touring extensively, and before he knew it, the world was talking, his records were selling, and life was looking very, very good.

Focusing on tours, David didn't put out another album for four more years. His latest, "A New Day at Midnight," is comprised of 12 new songs recorded in a small room in South London. According to Dave, the album's songs focus on the idea that even the darkest times can be vividly alive, can reveal things about life that you might never have noticed were it not for that darkness. The album contains the song "The Other Side," which is one of the ones I mentioned before. And I can attest to the fact that that song will take you somewhere else.

All his music will, actually. And if you like that sort of thing, then David Gray ought to become your Boyfriend too. Right away. Right now. This minute!

Or wait, actually, no, gimmie a week all my own first. You know, or ten days, depending on how things go. And if while you're in the mood to gimmie things, how about also giving me your word that if you should happen to bump into David Gray somewhere, you'll score an autograph for me?

Thank you kindly.

MacGyver Factor Score: 97.82%. One of the articles I read about David Gray described him as being like a combination between Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Neil Finn. Man, not bad company to keep, huh? And give that man major Mac points for being compared to Neil Finn, an ex-Boyfriend of the Week that nobody ever talks about anymore. Now, to be honest, I don't actually see the connection between the two of them. Yes, they're both men, they both play guitar, and they both sing. But their music is radically different. David Gray ain't no Crowded House. And the vice versa is also true, though I will admit I rank Crowded House slightly higher in my own mind, simply because I've known them longer.

However, that's hardly important. What's important is that I got to mention both Boyfriends in the same paragraph. And I just love making connections like that. David Gray! Neil Finn! David Gray! Neil Finn! Duck Season! Wabbit Season! Duck Season, FIRE!


Boyfriend-Related Links

The Official David Gray site
A David Gray Fan Site


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