1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 173

White Ladder, by David Gray
Suggested by Sara-Jane Davies

Some people can see colours in music.

There’s a neurological disorder called synesthesia, in which one or more of your senses can become intertwined with another or others. Thus, information meant to stimulate, say, your hearing, will stimulate your sight or smell as well.

People with synesthesia may say that a Green Day song actually sounds yellow, or that a Slayer guitar solo tastes crunchy, or that the latest Justin Beiber song smells of rotten vegetables. Although the final example might just be common sense.

While I’m not a synesthete myself, It’s fun to assign a colour to certain styles of music. Blues is blue, of course. Death metal is black, while Black Metal is purple. I’d say that Rock music is Red, Dance music is ecstasy yellow, and Gangster Rap is all about that green, yo.

David Grey is a singer / songwriter / guitarist from Manchester, likely known for the Top 10 single Babylon. White Ladder is his fourth album, which saw modest upon original release in 1998 but captured the zeitgeist on its wider release in 2000. Grey had a modicum of fame in the folk-rock arena before charting with White Ladder, and his breakout performance helped pav the way for other soul-bearing man-strummers like Ed Sheeran, James Blunt, George Ezra and more.

But man alive, Is this album dull.

Things start of relatively brightly, with a pair of singles: the introspective Please Forgive Me and the obvious standout Babylon. In truth, you can stop the album right there. The songs are standard guitar and standard vocals with some standard piano and standard percussion tacked on. Lyrically, they cover standard topics that have been covered by standard singers on other standard songs and albums. Actually, Gray’s vocal style does have a little more than a standard appeal, I suppose. It’s slightly quirky, and overly nasal, so if you’re up for that then go wild in the aisles.

In the UK, White Ladder is the tenth-best-selling album of the 21st century, and the 26th-best-selling album of all time. Its popularity should be a red flag, as appealing to The Masses will always see artistry trending toward the bereft and banal. Twenty-sixth does sound impressive, but considering Stars by Simply Red places fifteenth, all it proves is that the record-buying public should have their shopping privileges revoked. Imagine giving your hard-earned money to Mick Hucknall, instead of using it to fund the rocket that’ll hopefully fire him into the sun.

David Grey has nothing exciting or vibrant to say. Although compiled from a box of seemingly pretty pieces, it felt so middle of the road it was almost run over by Chris Rea driving home for Christmas. I give White Ladder a lacklustre 4/10. I’m glad I couldn’t see the colour of this album, as it appears that if you mix White and Gray, you get beige.

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