John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
Former Czars frontman John Grant has made a name for himself on his past two albums – Queen Of Denmark yes, but especially Pale Green Ghosts – with weird, synth-heavy albums that sound like what would happen if you took your regular singer-songwriter type and told them to just go with their instincts. On first blush it’s not the sort of stuff that would garner any sort of mainstream attention – the first song, the title track, makes explicit reference several times to his HIV positive status, wishes that he’d just gotten his arm caught in a thresher instead, like his uncle, and realizes that there are children that have cancer, so all bets at garnering sympathy are off. It works on every level though, and so Grant has gotten nothing but rave reviews and awards from publications since day 1.
One thing that takes it over the edge of good to great is the fact that, despite being nearly an hour in length, it doesn’t feel like it’s an hour – half that, if anything. Grant has the uncommon skill to stuff his ideas and quirks into a highly efficient package, and it serves him especially well on Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. It’s for the best, really. The album’s title is an amalgamation of an Icelandic phrase and a Turkish phrase that together say that middle age is a nightmare; it’s an obvious statement for Grant once you read over his lyrics. These are cutting, bitter songs that manage to become palatable through sheer humour and charm; any more of them than there are and it might have become overwhelming. It manages to get in and out in just enough time to feel fresh and sourly invigorating. It may not have all of the electro-pop thrills of Pale Green Ghosts, but it’s got a schizoid internal charm all its own, and it sets Grant apart as a contemporary songwriter of mention.