It does become tiring when artists lament the misrepresentation of their output. The producer takes the rap for poor material as we hear that the intended potential got lost in the mix. This is an ongoing trend. We were recently enlightened on the true aim of Bob Dylan’s “misunderstood” flop, ‘Self Portrait’ through a series of supposedly superior recordings. Basically through a combination of factors, the audience didn’t “get it”. As an audience we can also be guilty parties. For example Led Zeppelin’s early albums were universally dismissed by American critics. But that doesn’t let musicians off the hook as they themselves can often lament on their own failings. Some are more apologetic than others however. This summer on our own shores Neil Young gave a painful lesson in how to misinterpret the tone of his own art all in the name of self-indulgence.
It’s perhaps this internal struggle that stifles Gary Day‘s ‘A Mile In The Mind’. The best example is in the album opener and title track. As gentle acoustic guitars accompany a spoken word intro it’s difficult to know what to expect. The initial impression of a song ready to launch itself into the stratosphere comes to an abrupt halt. What follows makes the intro even more peculiar. In The Same Boat is frankly as run of the mill as it can get. If the title track was hard to pin down, this offering has its fingers in so many strands of middle of the road Americana soft rock it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. It’s textured and layered to its detriment, sounding strangled and unfocused in tone to the point of parody as a mandolin chimes along needlessly in the background.
The most frustrating aspect of ‘A Mile In The Mind’ is the sense of an artist overreaching and missing the strengths that are present within his own material. For every nice harmony and flourish of pretty guitars there are ventures into contrived grandiosity that wrestles any endearing qualities from the album. Musical interludes such as YOU are at odds with the core songs on offer here. Too often one idea is deployed until it puffs and pants to a fade out, apologetically acknowledging its own failings as the same idea is reintroduced under a different guise next time around.
There are brighter moments on ‘A Mile In The Mind’ that show Day does have a deft touch when the mood takes him. Stay On Track, for example, is a welcome change in pace. Its more stripped back approach offers some reprieve along with some well executed harmonies but the cliché-ridden lyrics leave a bad taste in the mouth. “I’ll walk on in the dark/I’m going my own way/help me stay on track/give me my own self back”, reads like a mish-mash of contrived sentiment devoid of any meaning or sincerity. ‘A Mile In The Mind’ is a product of misrepresentation. A product of uncertainty as an artist chases his own tail in search of an angle. The big brooding atmospherics go to war with the introspective songwriting only for both to collide with underwhelming results. The saddest thing about all of this for Day is that it’s nothing that hasn’t been heard before and there lies the biggest problem.