The Mchgn Daily - Weekend etc. - Friday, November 4, 1994 - 9
Welsh Gray looks inward,sings out
By DIRK SCHULZE
It's a voice like no other. It comes
out of nowhere, all passion and glory
and beauty, somewhat like a young
Van Morrison wailing his way through
"Astral Weeks," but with a character
and feeling all its own that defies such
comparisons. It digs and tears and
scrapes, swooping up and over itself
in waves of ragged soul. David Gray's
songs are less like pieces of music
than perfectly realized paintings.
The 26-year-old Welsh singer/
songwriter has quietly released two
brilliant recordings in the last two
years. His debut, "A Century Ends,"
is a blend of personal and political
songs tied together by Gray's obvious
conviction. Railing againstphoniness
and plasticity in "Birds Without
Wings," he sang of "tearing off the
fancy wrapping/ to find an empty
package" and "hollow people bound
by a lack/ of imagination and too
much looking back."
Likewise, in "Let the Truth Sting,"
he nailed modem society perfectly,
singing, "They're handing out empti-
ness/ We'll take it 'cause it's given/
Free with this plastic innocence/ And
these standards of living."
Gray did not shy, however, from
looking inside of himself at the same
time as his eye lit into the modern
world. The angry sun of "Birds With-
out Wings" that "burns down/ judg-
ing us all" judges him in the same
manner. Few performances on record
have been as convincing as the fire he
puts into "Gathering Dust," singing
"I must leave this harbor for the sea/
I'm too young to settle down and
make a home/ Idon't know where I'm
wanting to he/!Ijust know I h ave to be
"A Century Ends" quickly gar-
nered himn the adulation of Joan Bae
and Peter Gabriel, to name a few,
Wheras such immediate admiration
might inflate another musicians head
to an insufferable degree, it had lite
effect on Gray. "I'm interested in the
music, in my writing, not the praise,"
Gray's recently-released folow-
up, "Flesh," is the logical extension
of the ground he staked on "A Cen-
tury Ends." Focussing less on the
politics of his debut, "Flesh" finds
Gray reflecting on some larger ideas.
"I don't realy attempt the ranting
style anymore. It's wearing thin," he
said. "Ihave more faith in quiet things
now, in a more intimate style." In-
deed, the most touching moment on
the new album comes in "Falling
Free," a painfully beautiful ballad that
Gray backs only with a piano. "No
need to nail it to the ground! No need
to smother it with sense," he sings.
Despite the, brilliance of his two
albums, Gray admits to a little uncer-
tainty in the studio.T Ive just started.
I'm just learning the ropes in the stu-
dio," he said. "ft's a tricky thing,
recording." He said he is still looking
for the right producer, one who un-
derstands the sound he wants. "Un-
derstatement: that's what recording is
about," he said. "The song has to do
the work. I'm not interested in orna-
Far from being overdressed,
"Flesh," features no elaborate string
arrange ments, no keyboards, no
canned horn sections and they are not
needed. All that is necessary is Gray's
voice and his passionate writing. "We
got something they can't stifle/ With
their price tags and picture frames,"
he sings on the title track, effectively
stating his case.
This is not a kinder, gentler Gray,
however. Still present on "Flesh" is
the hatred of anything phony or ster-
ile. "What have you become?" he
asks in "What Are You," "You sing
your old song, dancing to the same
drum... You lost interest/ You lost
your spine." Sell-outs receive the
same treatment. "What is that you're
wearing/ Money's ugly clown face/
nation." His response is his music:
"Me I take the cynic's road/ Throw
scorn on your empty mind."
Listening to "A Century Ends"
and "Flesh," it would be all too easy
to elevate Gray to the level of musical
deity if he did not feel so strongly
about such foolishness. "Heroes are
very plastic," he said. "Even the great-
est of artists is still human." True,
Gray may be human but he is an
extraordinary one. One glimpse of
the power and feeling he puts into his
work is enough. This man believes in
what he is doing and the results are
nothing short of amazing.
DA VID GRAY openedfor Shawn
Colvin last night at the Michigan
Theatre. Sorry if you missed it.
...to a FREE pancake and
Saturday, November 5
Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church
(near north campus}
Bake sale featuring freezable, ready bake apple pies
Craft and Gift sale featuring unique children's toy
and games, perfect for Christmas gifts
David Gray sure is a spunky monkey. See him pronto, or else someone will make you fight with a bear.
*'Tick' talks,nioves; still was better
By TED WATTS
Do you think Marvel and DC are
the only comic book companies who
are responsible for providing action-
adventure slop for our Saturday
moring viewing? Wrongo. There is
also the venerable New England Com-
ics with the Fox show "The Tick."
* The comic book version, created
by Ben Edlund, began as a parody
comic, mocking various comic book
genres. The hulking idiot hero and
sidekick, ninjas and other comic book
clichds were all lampooned in the
critically acclaimed (in the field)
comic. This is not entirely unlike a
certain other comic book about ninas,
but that one had turtles. How goofy.
*owever, "the Tick" comic seemed
to derail in the last few years, seeing
only sporadically produced issues,
numbering less than one per annum
for the last several years.
EnterFox Saturday mornings. The
reason for the lack of quality comic
books featuring the Tick is Edlund's
committment to the animated version
of the big blue arachnid. Apparently
his involvement in the show's devel-
opment prevented Edlund from com-
pleting his tasks relating to the comic.
And what has been produced? A
show that seems to have better writ-
ing than most other super hero kids'
shows but worse animation. The same
can also be said about the show's
relationship to "Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles," which is bad news in the
animation department but certainly
refreshing when it comes to writing.
The personalities of the Tick and
his rather pudgy adult sidekick Arthur
are easily latched onto. The Tick is an
undefeatable moron who really means
well, and so is a sympathetic charac-
ter. Arthur is a sort of everyday Joe,
kind of geeky but endearing. And he
bought a moth suit at a swap meet that
allows him to fly and thus be the
Tick's sidekick. He also has more
common sense and a lot more brains
than the Tick. He's not only a side-
kick, he's a nurse for a crazy guy!
These two vastly different characters
are sure to be related to by any type of
person: strong populars can identify
with the Tick and weak unpopulars
can identify with Arthur.
The stories themselves are fairly
standard fare. A guy working at a
dinosaur fossil park turns into a 500
foot dinosaur and Tick and Arthur
have to stop him. Stuff like that. The
difference is there is a style to "The
Tick" not found in most other shows.
For whatever reason (quite likely
Edlund's present), the jokes are just
funnier. There's a whackiness that
doesn't seem to pander as much to
children as many of the Saturday
morning sugar crew do. Instead of
sugar coated messages, the Tick's
mightiness always wins the day, but
he's stupid and thus gets the stuffing
ripped from him as well. It's just
humorous violence that doesn't have
pretentions to the contrary.
But there is a dark side to this. The
show just isn't as good as the comic
was. While the show is kind of funny,
the comic was really funny. An issue
of the comic dealing with the Tick
encountering and fighting another
character with previous claim to the
name Tick was remade into an epi-
sode of the show. The constraints of
Saturday morning cartoons has hurt
the storylines. First, the story must fit
into the 22 minute time allottment for
an animated show. The pacing is there-
fore changed, and not for the better.
The story drags. There is also the
addition of a vilain, Since the other
Tick is also a hero, it seems as i f they
added an actual villain to show the
kids that right is different from wrong,
even if right can be wrong. The prob-
lem is that it would have been funnier'
if the villain hadn't been there (even
though the villain resembled Dennis
Hopper in demeanor).
Even though it has problems, "The
Tick" is still an improvement over the
recent kiddie fare, Saturday at 10:30,
or elsethere'j be some blood sucking
in the town tongh.
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