Album review: John Grant

John Grant - Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (Bella Union)

IT BEGINS with St Paul's celebrated description of love from his First Letter to the Corinthians, Ch 13, two voices reading, both male, one in English, the other in Icelandic, before white noise drowns them out.

It ends with 1st Corinthians 13, but this time it is the voice of a young girl, and coming after an album that is, by turns, uncomfortably honest, compassionate, ribald, angry - with others, with the self, sarcastic, withering, and empathetic, it feels almost cathartic, as the album, having fought and raged its way to this point, exhausted and purged, finds St Paul's description inarguable, or at least sees it as beginning to make sense.

Grant admits he got "moodier and angrier on this record" and he pulls no punches, his very black humour declaring on the majestic title track: "I can't believe I missed New York in the 70s/I could have gotten a head start in the world of disease," - in reference to his being HIV positive, yet, Grant does not allow himself to feel a victim, pointing out: "There are children who have cancer".

The mood is lightened considerably on 'Snug Slacks', where Grant, lasciviously, luridly drools: "It takes an ass like yours to make it possible for me/to have developed a very high tolerance for inappropriate behaviour!" - the way he twists that final word would make Austin Powers blush. Further along he compares a former boyfriend to Hitler ('You & Him' ), and threatens to make a Voodoo Doll of another ('Voodoo Doll' ), but by the end, on the electro inspired ballad 'Disappointing', he comes to find someone to whom everything else pales in comparison.

Like Pale Green Ghosts, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure continues to mix Grant's seventies style singer-songwriter approach with his love of techno and electornica, only here it is vastly more accomplished, more confident, much less jarring and inconsistent, with the two deeply contrasting genres at ease with each other, and through that Grant has opened further sonic avenues to explore in the future. In short, a triumph.

John Grant plays a 'Róisín Dubh presents...' concert in the Seapoint Ballroom, Salthill, on Saturday January 30 at 8pm. See www.roisindubh.net

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