ALBUM REVIEW: Grey Tickles, Black Pressure by John Grant

WORTH A LOOK?: ****

OUT: 9/10

Tracklist: Intro; Grey Tickles, Black Pressure; Snug Slacks; Guess How I Know; You and Him; Down Here; Voodoo Doll; Global Warming; Magma Arrives; Black Blizzard; Disappointing; No More Tangles; Geraldine; Outro.

John Grant’s third album is not out until Friday but we’ve had a sneak preview and can give you the lowdown here.

We caught Grant live three times last year – Glastonbury, Royal Festival Hall (RFH) and guesting with Goldfrapp at the Albert Hall – and it was with the Royal Northern Sinfonia at the RFH almost a year ago that we heard the first track from this album, beautiful orchestral ballad No More Tangles. Sample lyric: ‘Gee your hair smells terrific but I cannot stand to have you around. No more tangles, no more tears, no more reindeer games or narcissistic queers …’

The first single from the album featured Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn on jaunty electro-pop Disappointing which is anything but and in fact extols the joys of Grant’s life or at least seems to. Yes, we weren’t expecting to write that sentence much in relation to this album on the strength of its marvellously dark predecessors.

In fact, third track Snug Slacks sounds like an outtake from debut solo album Queen of Denmark‘s more light-hearted, Scissor Sister disco moments like Chicken Bones, Supernatural Defibrillator and That’s The Good News.

On track five You and Him the character assassination can’t help but provoke a smile: ‘You and Hitler ought to get together, you ought to learn to knit and wear matching sweaters. You and Hitler ought to tie the knot … get on the phone to your buddy Pol Pot.’

Elsewhere things are much darker – the titular Grey Tickles, Black Pressure comes from the literal Icelandic and Turkish translations of ‘midlife crisis’ and ‘nightmare’ respectively. Business as usual then? Well, not quite. On the strength of this album the penchant for elaborate 70s balladry, skewed folk and experimental electronica remains but Grant’s growl seems to bark as acidly but perhaps with a touch more humour.

A return to form for us after the far less pop Pale Green Ghosts yet perhaps not quite as heartfelt and personal as Queen of Denmark.

  • John Grant plays the Eventim Apollo Hammersmith 12/11 and the Royal Albert Hall 15/6. Tickets here.
  • Enjoy this review? Follow Neil Durham on Twitter @NeilDurham
  • Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is currently streaming here ahead of its release.

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