John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts

This second album moves on from FM ballads to embrace new wave synths and beats.

Label: Bella Union

Rating: 7

In the wake of the mass of critical acclaim that greeted the release of debut solo album ‘The Queen of Denmark’ in 2010, John Grant packed his bags and moved to Iceland to hook up with Biggi Veira of Gus Gus to produce a follow-up that moves on from the FM ballads of his debut to embrace new wave synths and beats (and Sinéad O’Connor). Having moved through the 70’s and 80’s in the course of two albums we can only assume his third will see him dusting off his parka and ‘aving it Britpop style. Or not. Whatever.

It’s not all change though, there is still a sense of continuity. The Pale Green Ghosts for instance, of the album (and opening song)’s title refer to the Russian olive trees that lined the motorway he would drive at night from his hometown of Denver, to Boulder, where his boyfriend, the TC of ‘The Queen Of Denmark’s opening track, ‘TC & Honeybear’, lived. The sense of humour that he showed to great effect on songs like ‘Sigourney Weaver’ is still intact too, which is something to be thankful for as, without it to leaven the mood, his material could otherwise veer into uncomfortable introspection… if you don’t laugh and all that.

While the stylistic shift may take some of those who hold Grant’s previous work close some time to get used to, the real beauty of that first album, Grant’s determination to confront the world, with all its shitty, hollow little miseries, crack a joke about a famous actor and plough on through the muck regardless, remain. So much so that, on ‘GMF’ when he tells us in his sonorous baritone that he’s ‘the greatest motherfucker that you’re ever gonna meet,’ despite the evident hollowness of the boast, you almost start to believe it.