WORTH A LOOK?: ****
TRACKLIST: Boy From Michigan; County Fair; The Rusty Bull; The Cruise Room; Mike And Julie; Best In Me; Rhetorical Figure; Just So You Know; Dandy Star; Your Portfolio; The Only Baby; Billy
We’re reminded of the close of 2 of our favourite albums of the 90s – Pulp‘s His’n’Hers and REM’s Automatic For The People – by the tenderness and tunefulness of final track here, Billy.
- Read on for reasons including how to see Grant on tour in London and across the UK soon
The thing Billy has in common with David’s Last Summer from His’n’Hers and the final trio of songs (Man In The Moon, Nightswimming and Find The River) from REM’s masterpiece are that they encapsulate a feeling of beauty through the use of melody as things slow down and become more contemplative.
Billy‘s lyrics are the story of a same-sex friendship taken to the next level and the tenderness of the storytelling means the details are far less interesting than the shared intimacy: ‘Billy, I remember how you let me stay at your place, As a birthday gift, it was on the night of July 25th, And we both slept in the same bed, You didn’t care, you let me know, That you were not afraid.’
Grant, who will be 53 on 25 July, has now released 5 solo albums and we think this is our favourite above all of them including the 2010 collection Queen Of Denmark whose tales of struggles with sexuality, alcohol and drug addiction broke him.
This 12-song collection begins with 3 tracks focussing in on his small-town upbringing and the title track, County Fair and Rusty Bull are awash with names presumably from Grant’s past as well as locating us in a specific place where God-fearing American Midwest family life is soundtracked by psychedelic 70s synths.
Produced by Cate Le Bon, the musical palette is more varied than we remember Grant being before with clarinet and saxophone ornamenting some of the earlier material.
Later tracks like Just So You Know and Dandy Star remind of a balladeering Elton John from his 70s heyday and the most recent modern comparison would be the Scissor Sisters, which is why we feel this album has the potential to be Grant’s most successful in a while.
The influences also take in Devo or early Human League on the stark and sexualised Your Portfolio which illuminates another theme of brash consumerism with a key lyric being: ‘The American Dream can cause scarring and some nasty bruising.’
The horror with Trump-era America already feels dated after last November’s election result but the fact that we know what happens next lends the album an air of optimism that it otherwise might not necessarily have.
Grant plays gigs across the UK and Europe over the next year including London shows at Alexandra Palace and 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire and, Covid-permitting, that’s where we’d like up to catch up with him to enjoy it in a setting that will suit it best.