Reviewed by James Lavender
It appears that since moving to Iceland a few years ago, former Czar’s frontman John Grant seems to have immersed himself into that peculiar music scene and the results have spoken for themselves. Queen of Denmark, his 2010 solo debut and 2013’s Pale Green Ghosts are both critically acclaimed, and now he has pulled off the trick again with his third album.
There is a recurring theme in music of artists moving to another country, where they soak in the atmosphere and challenge themselves artistically and personally. A notable example would be David Bowie’s Berlin era in the late 1970s. Now, I’m not comparing John Grant to his ‘Bowieness’, but there are echoes of the Low album on tracks such as Voodoo Doll and Global Warming, with its electronic soundscapes more prevalent on these tracks than any others on the record. Grant has taken many European electronic influences from Germany and even hints of British rock, most notably on songs such as ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’, ‘Down Here’ and the appearance of Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn on standout tracks such as ‘Disappointed’, which is quite ironic for a song which actually fails to disappoint.
The production values on the album are top-notch. The influences of European music range from European techno to an almost operatic finish on the song ‘Geraldine’. For all the serious production that have gone into the album, it is Grant’s lyrics which stand out, particularly on songs like ‘Disappointed’, where Grant lists some of the great things in life, such as the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, which disappoint compared to the man he is in love with. Nearly all of his lyrics reflect who Grant is as a person, making this a deeply personal record.
Upon first listen, I was a bit sceptical about the competing styles on the album. But after two more hearings, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure has grown on me, as I think it will on audiences. Those of you who are already fans will find it a natural progression for an original and provocative artist.
Recommended Track: Disappointing