It's really not so strange that British neo-folkie David Gray's new album culminates with a version of Soft Cell's "Say Hello Wave Goodbye." Gray continues to strum an acoustic guitar and sing in a style that owes much to Bob Dylan, but "White Ladder" is his synth-pop album. While "My Oh My" features nothing more overt than a shuffling electrobeat, such tracks as "We're Not Right" and the title tune are tricked-up with techno-thuds, faux-fuzz-bass and theremin squiggles.

Ironically, Gray sounded more contemporary on his first two albums, whose spare folkie sound was updated simply by the singer's passion. Despite the electronic embroidery, "White Ladder" is all too traditional in both its sentiments and its melodic style. The bite of Gray's early work is largely gone, replaced by decorous true-love ballads and cosmic waltzes that suggest Van Morrison in his Marin County phase. The arrangement hardly matters when the songwriter crafts a tune as catchy as "Babylon," but the fact that the song appears here in two different versions suggests that even Gray knows it's the album's only gem.

Appearing Friday at the 9:30 club with Clarence Greenwood.

* To hear a free Sound Bite from David Gray, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8105. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)