Album reviewsMusic

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

11 October, 2015 — by Christopher Ratcliff0

John_Grant_grey tickles black pressure album cover

Perhaps the two most unexpected and wonderful things about listening to John Grant’s third solo album Grey Tickles, Black Pressure are that if you heard his first one, the borderline morose Queen of Denmark, you wouldn’t believe that five years later you’d be laughing and dancing your ass off to a future follow-up.

Such is the magisterial transformation of John Grant. Where once the bearded wall of a man would lay his soul bare over mournful folk melodies, recounting his struggles with drugs, alcohol, sexuality and illness, while making some of the most genuinely moving and difficult music in recent memory, now John Grant has found his groove. Yes he still writes deeply personal reflections on his emotional state (the title itself is an amalgam of the Icelandic term for midlife crisis and the Turkish term for nightmare *cough* thanks Guardian *cough) but now there is much less wallowing and much more stripped back electro-pop and New York disco backing Grant’s brilliantly hilarious lyrics.

john grant tickling a bird

Seriously, they really are hilarious. This isn’t a ‘comedy album’ by any means, it’s just that John Grant has an incredible natural wit that comes across gloriously in every metaphor and close-to-the-bone reference made. He wishes he could wallow in his self-pity but there are “children who have cancer” so how can he “compete with that?” He suggests an unnamed antagonist would make a perfect companion to Hitler, “[together] you oughta learn the finer points of decoupage, you could spend your weekends cleaning out the garage”. Grant is so damn clever too: from ‘No More Tangles’, “Stockholm is a city that I adore, but the syndrome of that name is one that I abhor.”

I could list these pointedly brilliant couplets for the rest of the review, but that would take away the joy of discovery for yourselves. Elsewhere there are plenty of heartfelt moments, ‘Disappointing’ is a fantastically uplifting love song for the modern misanthrope. ‘Voodoo Doll’ despite its angular funk has the most lovely, thoughtful lyrics. You’ll wish John Grant would make a voodoo doll of you and feed it some homemade chicken soup and put it in a corduroy jumpsuit. It’s like LCD Soundsystem with less arch cynicism and more big-hearted bear-hugs.

Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is John Grant’s most perfect and outrightly enjoyable album so far. Playful, sardonic yet utterly charming. May we all be able to channel our demons into something half as meaningful.

Check out all the latest music releases in our new album reviews section, including Kurt Vile’s B’lieve I’m Goin Down.

John Grant - Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

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