CD: John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
The follow-up to Queen of Denmark surprises with a new electro slant and affects with its brutal frankness
How John Grant would follow up 2010’s universally celebrated Queen of Denmark was a knotty dilemma. He could have settled into his role as the aberrant, self-lacerating, depression-fuelled, potty mouthed descendant of Lionel Ritchie and Eric Carmen. Instead, his new album takes him into new territories which again attests to his status as a singer/writer with no peers.
Pale Green Ghosts builds on the John Grant we know with “Vietnam”, “It Doesn’t Matter to Him”, “You Don’t Have To” and “Glacier”, all of which he has performed live over the past few years. Any of them could have slotted onto Queen of Denmark, but they are even more enraged than before. The delivery of “It Doesn’t Matter to Him” is relaxed: the guitars strum placidly and the songs soars, supported by a Sinéad O’Connor’s ghostly backing. Then, resignedly, he sings “It doesn’t matter to him, he took away my triple-A pass, I am invisible to him.” It raises tears.
It would probably be enough that Grant is able to escalate the impact of its predecessor, but the Iceland-recorded Pale Green Ghosts has even more to offer. The extraordinary title track opens proceedings. Taking the synth pulse of early acid house, it instantly positions the album as no son of the Midlake-backed Queen of Denmark. “Black Belt”, which follows, takes him into Latin-electro territory. Grant has spent time in Sweden, but is now resident in Iceland, where these two tracks were the first recorded for the album, with Birgir Þórarinsson of Gus Gus. The new, synthetic setting culminates on “Ernest Borgnine”, where Grant declares “I got the disease” – he is HIV positive.
Grant’s restless searching has climaxed in a surprising and affecting album. In capturing the chill wind of his brutally frank, often funny yet never self-pitying self-examination, it’s one of 2013’s best.
Watch the video for John Grant's "Pale Green Ghosts"
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