mon 22/07/2024

Album: John Grant - The Art of the Lie | reviews, news & interviews

Album: John Grant - The Art of the Lie

Album: John Grant - The Art of the Lie

The forthright US singer-songwriter sets the personal in a wider context

John Grant’s ‘The Art of the Lie’: humour lightens the load

“I feel ashamed because I couldn’t become the man that you always hoped I’d become.” The line is repeated during “Father,” The Art of the Lie’s third track. After this, there’s “Mother and Son,” “Daddy” and the allusive “The Child Catcher”. Parent-child relations, from either perspective, are key to John Grant’s sixth solo album. Specifically, how these have rippled through his life to form his present-day self.

The US-born though now Iceland national’s follow-up to 2021’s Boy from Michigan is not just about interpreting growing up in a context which would not accept him as gay. The scope is wider: America’s descent into a place where opposition to democracy is taken seriously; apprehension that the country where Grant was raised is depowering and disenfranchising sizeable chunks of the population; bafflement that what are dubbed “warped” interpretations of the bible on the album are driving increasingly pervasive political agendas. Grant implicitly asks whether what he grew up experiencing has fed into where his former country is now. It’s not all sombre: “It’s a Bitch” casts a sardonic eye over the male video gamers Grant saw in arcades during his teenage years. Humour lightens the load.

Getting to grips with this outpouring would be difficult without a direct way in. This comes through strong tunes, carried by Grant’s rich voice. Despite album opener “All That School for Nothing”'s jagged nods to Tom Tom Club and Talking Heads, a couple of dives into electro-funk and odd moments suggesting Art of Noise, his now-trademark marriage of Eighties-influenced electronica and swoon-some balladry is given its most lush framing so far. The adept producer is Ivor Guest, who has worked with Grace Jones – which led him to contribute to Beyoncé’s 2022 Renaissance album – and French star Brigitte Fontaine.

More cohesive overall than Boy from Michigan, the most beautiful songs on The Art of the Lie enfold like a super-plump pillow. This, however, is a feint. Where there’s a fluffy exterior, a razor-blade acuity lies within.

@MrKieronTyler

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