tue 14/07/2020

Albums of 2015: John Grant - Grey Tickles, Black Pressure | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of 2015: John Grant - Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

Albums of 2015: John Grant - Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

The American émigré offered up his sardonic wit with a little more heart

Grant: cutting through life's bullshit

When was the last time a singer really spoke to your inner thoughts? Not the sanitised version you offer up on Facebook, nor even your occasional breakdown, but the everyday stuff – the indignation, cynicism and justifiable anger you carry around with you. That was John Grant's Grey Tickles, Black Pressure in a nutshell. At face value the stern-faced singer may have been exploring the experiences of being a successful middle-aged gay artist with HIV and piles, but there was more. By offering such a candid view of his life he also became a darkly humorous proxy for all our inner selves.

This made Grant the most cathartic of voices for 2015. Lyrially he moved effortlessly from the cattiness of “You and Hitler ought to get together/ You ought to learn to knit and wear matching sweaters” to the empathy of “I made a voodoo doll of you/ And I gave it some chicken soup.” Of course, such wordplay wasn't new to us – we have heard Grant’s wry, unflinching stream of consciousness on Queen of Denmark and Pale Green Ghosts. But this time round added age and wisdom made the experience feel less angry, more considered.

A Prince-inflected synth-funk soundscape moved things along very nicely. Even the slower numbers had an upbeat feel, allowing Grant to get away with lines like “Stockholm is a place I adore/ But the syndrome by that name is one I abhor.” And keeping things light also made cutting through life's bullshit rather agreeable. Indeed, it often felt like the perfect soundtrack to de-friend people on social media to. Near the album's end Grant is found contemplating the life of Geraldine Paige, an actress associated with Tennessee Williams plays. He says to her ghost “please tell me that you didn’t have to put up with all this shit”. He might as well have been asking us all the same. Thanks to Grant his audience all felt they were better than that. 

Overleaf: John Grant's video for "Disappointing"

 

It often felt like the perfect soundtrack to de-friend people on social media to

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