Following collaborations with the likes of Sinead O’Connor, Goldfrapp and Elton John, as well as sell-out European show and a recent US tour with the Pixies, ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ is Brit award winner John Grant’s third album release. The tone of the record is heavy with Grant’s dark humour and features an eclectic mix of ecstatic electro-pop, rich, cinematic ballads and desolate synthscapes.
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Welcome to The Review, wherein Clint gets scared of not digging a lauded indie pop artist’s music in the way he always does and instead parses him off to me. Who’s afraid of John Grant? I’m bloody not. He’s got a haughty voice, a witty repertoire and a lot of fuckin’ problems, but he’s also got a bleep bloop symphony behind him. Bring it on, uh, ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’.
In truth, some of Grant’s music is very nice and his overshared lyrics can be compelling, making small moments feel devastating the way you might crack in the last bad moment of a terrible day. He’s doing that for about two percent of this record’s very real nonsense. First, I’ve gotta cut the fat away: Grant’s best as a melancholy crooner with a sidelining of humour, but much of this record is him doing full on comedian, as on the really, shockingly terrible “Snug Slacks”, where he combines squeaky electronics with smooth percussion and very inappropriate behaviour -- it doesn’t help that the final verse reads like Mark Kozelek getting Jemaine Clement to read lines from his diary of smug. There’s no hook centering this mess, so it sounds like lethargy as a sensory overload.
“Guess How I Know” -- with its full roster of indie electronics borrowed from a melt-downing Sufjan on Age of Adz, sanded down with the snark of TVoTR -- sounds as cluttered and baseless, deviating into meandering synth that sounds like it’s trying to escape its maker. “You and Him” is an attempt at Grant writing a diss track with the same squeaking mechanics behind him -- it sounds horribly loud and nauseating, though its lyrical content seems to warrant it (Grant even invokes Godwin’s Law in an attempt to be mischievous)
Mostly, this record is just fucking jarring: Grant takes the premise of a serene, orchestral album (where he certainly feels at home) and smashes it like glass into this record of sickly electro-pop. If you can deal with an overwhelming, tangling mess -- like, the total opposite of a Majical Cloudz record -- then you’ll find a lot to love, but for me it’s only choice cuts that do it, like the lilting first verse of “Magma Arrives’, whose weightlessness is soon destroyed with gloopy effects and a marching beat. I’d love to hear him pedal it down just a little but, but you gotta appreciate how far his sonics can go.
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