John Grant

Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

Partisan

Dec 09, 2015 Issue #55 - November/December 2015 - EL VY Bookmark and Share


In case you had forgotten: it takes just one minute and 39 seconds for John Grant, on his third solo album, to remind us of his capacity to surprise. After introducing the album with, well, "Intro," comes as black a slice of humour as you'll hear on a pop record this year: "I did not think I was the one being addressed/In haemorrhoid commercials on the TV set" is the opening line to the album's title track. The song develops into a scathing attack on First World problems, as Grant laments his own issues, punctuating them with the refrain "And there are children who have cancer/And I can't compete with that."

What comes as no surprise is that Grant, whose previous two solo efforts, Queen of Denmark and Pale Green Ghosts topped many critics' end-of-year best-of lists, has turned in one of the finest records of 2015. Musically, this is his darkest and most immersive album to date. There is a heavy leaning towards throbbing synth bass lines that evoke imagery apt for the album's title, which comes from the raw translation of two phrases from the Icelandic and Turkish languages describing impending middle age and nightmares, respectively

Immersive as the album is, it is rarely an easy listen. Moments of levity, á la his debut's "Chicken Bones," are few and far between, with the standout being the funky "Snug Slacks," which falls somewhere between Prince and what you would imagine a hypothetical fourth LCD Soundsystem record might sound like.

Angry as it may be, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure channels the emotion into acerbic humour, at one point scorning a former lover with a reference to David Cronenberg's schlock horror film Scanners, and on "You and Him" suggesting they might enjoy a knitwear party with Hitler.

Both The Jesus and Mary Chain and Garbage sang about only being happy when it rains. They would appreciate this album, as dark misery has rarely been so entertaining. (www.johngrantmusic.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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