John Grant: Grey Tickles, Black Pressure | Album of the Week

Fri, Oct 9, 2015, 13:41


Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

John Grant

Bella Union

Singer / Songwriter

Say what you will about John Grant, he is a songwriter who doggedly wears his heart on his sleeve. Over the course of two exceptional solo albums – and indeed, his earlier material with The Czars – the Colorado man has proven himself an exceedingly honest lyricist.

His third album portrays a songwriter who is less entangled in heartbreak, yet still able to poke fun at his life in his own inimitable way; even the title (a translation of the Icelandic for ‘mid-life crisis’ and the Turkish for ‘nightmare’), attests to his droll wit.

The outstanding title track, a slouchy piano ballad that blooms into lush strings, mines the humour in feeling depressed: “There are children who have cancer,” he sings. “So all bets are off, ‘cos I can’t compete with that.”

Elsewhere, he namechecks everyone from Hitler to Joan as Police Woman and Angie Dickinson to GG Allin as he rips through a lyric sheet encompassing love, life and on Magma Arrives, the deeply personal: “The shame has gone so deep,” he croons, “it’s impossible to sleep.”

Musically, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is the central hub of a Venn diagram comprised of the icy electronica and Eurodisco of 2013’s Pale Green Ghosts and the dreamy ‘70s AOR of 2010’s Queen of Denmark. Grant enjoys the indulgences of electro-rock on Guess How I Know and Snug Slacks, while the spacey slo-mo sweep of Geraldine acts as a heart-tugging foil to the pervasive buzz of Moog synthesiser.

Guests include Amanda Palmer on backing vocals, and Tracey Thorn in Disappointing. Like his other albums, however, this album is unmistakably John Grant’s: in other words, another outstanding musical exploration of the human condition.

- Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is out now on Bella Union. For more, see