mon 01/06/2020

CD: John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure | reviews, news & interviews

CD: John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

CD: John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

The troubled troubadour returns with a superb album that dances through desperation

Whad'ya wanna make those eyes at me for?

John Grant is nothing if not a confessional songwriter. On his last album, Pale Green Ghosts, there were moments of dark despair, caustic barbs and some surprisingly slinky grooves soundtracking a man who was offering himself up with a breathtaking honesty.

John Grant is nothing if not a confessional songwriter. On his last album, Pale Green Ghosts, there were moments of dark despair, caustic barbs and some surprisingly slinky grooves soundtracking a man who was offering himself up with a breathtaking honesty. On Grey Tickles, Black Pressure – a title that places us somewhere between mid-life crisis and full-on nightmare – he is similarly laid bare, but the literate humour has now become full-on funny and could well mark him out as the best lyricist of his generation.

Although Grant says he wanted to get “moodier and angrier” on this record, he concedes he had fun making it, and it shows. There are few who would think of starting an album with the line, “I did not think I was the one being addressed/In haemorrhoid commercials on the TV set” – fewer still who could make it work. The bitter, insulting “You & Him”, as well as suggesting the song’s subject form a knitting circle with Hitler, contains the line, “You're not thinking, you have trouble with that/ You think you're super special, but you're just a big twat”. Childish, perhaps, but very, very funny.

Musically, the electronic pulse that occasionally thrummed through Pale Green Ghosts is stronger now. Compared to its predecessor, the balance of this collection is tipped more towards the dancefloor, specifically one with Patrick Cowley and Prince playing back-to-back all night, and with darkened corners purpose-built for inappropriate behaviour. “Snug Slacks”, “Voodoo Doll” and “Disappointing” in particular feel like more defined and successful forms of the hybrid aimed for previously. The latter, featuring Everything But the Girl’s Tracey Thorn, is positively upbeat – a tightly written love song that suggests redemption, happiness and forward momentum.

That’s not to say that Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is one long party. There is much reflection here and Grant’s past is still a wellspring of dark, tender and occasionally despairing story songs. It does suggest, however, that his future is looking brighter, and the past, perhaps, a little more distant.

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