fri 03/12/2021

Album: John Grant - Boy From Michigan | reviews, news & interviews

Album: John Grant - Boy From Michigan

Album: John Grant - Boy From Michigan

Ruminative fifth album from the prickly singer-songwriter

John Grant's 'Boy From Michigan': characteristically Grant-ian

While recognisably a John Grant album, Boy From Michigan brings on board something new and unprecedented – an outside producer. Welcome, Cate Le Bon. Among her previous production credits are Deerhoof and Tim Presley, whom she’s collaborated with on an album. As these and her own releases attest, she’s not going to steer anyone towards the mainstream.

For Grant’s fifth solo set, the follow-up to 2018’s Love Is Magic, Le Bon appears to have helped give Grant his most integrated sound in years, bringing a balance which last surfaced on much of 2013’s second solo album Pale Green Ghosts. Although the 75-minute Boy From Michigan showcases Grant in an electro-inclined frame of mind, most of its songs could also be performed solo at a piano. There are nods to the soundtrack work of Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis. Chris and Cosey too. But at its core, the album is about the songs, their melodies. When rolling verses pave the way for ascending choruses, it’s characteristically Grant-ian.

The subject matter mostly draws from his past and how it ripples into his present being: the person he first had sex with, a memorable metal bull which guarded the gates of a scrapyard his father scoured for car parts, his final moments in America before he moved to Germany. What could be annoyingly solipsistic is instead compelling.

Odd moments don’t quite gel. The nine-minute Donald Trump take-down “The Only Baby” goes on too long. The point is made long before it ends. The Devo-esque “Rhetorical Figure” is slight. “Your Portfolio’s” allegorical transmutation of America’s worship of money into a marauding sex organ feels forced. Such artistic prickliness is typical of Grant. No matter, especially as album closer "Billy" is a future classic. As a whole, Boy From Michigan is further confirmation that John Grant is one of the modern-era’s most significant singer-songwriters.

‘Boy From Michigan’ further confirms that John Grant is one of the modern-era’s most significant singer-songwriters

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