This ‘John Grant’ article was written by Joel Gehler, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster
John Grant’s solo career thus far has shown very promising signs of greater things to come. It all started with the Midlake collaborative first record ‘Queen Of Denmark’ in 2010 and then took a turn into electro-pop territory with 2013’s ‘Pale Green Ghosts’. Both albums received deserved critical acclaim and yet these records were pointing towards something greater – an album that fully realises Grant’s ability as a songwriter capable of taking any style and making it his own. ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ not only fulfils these promises but also builds on them to make a truly weird and wonderful album. It is rare to find an album that incorporates such a vast range of musical styles, alongside lyrics that jump from crushing honesty to endearing witty humour and onto dark melancholy without ever missing a step. ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ is the album that finally solidifies Grant’s genius and capabilities as a songwriter.
Over the best part of an hour ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ fully immerses you into John Grant’s world where no subject is off the table and any music style goes. Much like ‘Pale Green Ghosts’, synths are the main instrument of choice here often taking songs on a completely different journey from where they started through striking, yet seamless, transitions in melody and atmosphere. ‘Voodoo Doll’ starts off with a minimal industrial synth coupled with Grant’s croon then comes alive with an electro-funk beat. Regularly throughout the album the synth lines make for very convincing Kraftwerk compositions – the verse in ‘Snug Slacks’ could easily fit onto ‘Techno Pop’ and ‘Black Blizzard’ sounds like the evil twin to Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights’ – yet Grant has no problem in making these influences totally his own. Strings, piano and guitars add to the mix throughout as Grant’s classical influences come to the fore and on many occasions steal the show – especially on album highlights ‘Global Warming’ and ‘No More Tangles’ where the strings are quite simply stunning.
Unsurprisingly John Grant is on fine lyrical form from start to finish tackling dozens of subject matters with dry humour and deep sadness wherever needed. ‘Global Warming’ easily has one of the funniest choruses I’ve heard; “Global warming is ruining my fair complexion/amending all my imperfections” and is closely rivalled by the chorus of ‘You and Him’ which you need to hear for yourself to do it full justice. The title track hits with the sucker punch of wit and sadness as Grant sings of mid-life crises (of sorts) to then compare that “there are children who have cancer/so I’m better off ‘cos I can’t compete with that”.
John Grant has established himself as the songwriter he was building towards on his previous releases and ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ is an excellent record for the whole duration. The scope of this record is frankly outrageous and yet it all comes together with ease and clarity that makes it all the more impressive. There are electro-pop songs that command you to give into the music and just dance (such as the brilliant single ‘Disappointing’) dark and melancholic epics (‘Magma Arrives’, ‘No More Tangles’, ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’) and then almost everything in between. ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ may be one of the weirder albums you listen to this year, but it also might be one of the best.
‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ is out now via Bella Union.