John Grant
Pale Green Ghosts


3.5
great

Review

by teddycutler1 USER (11 Reviews)
March 18th, 2013 | 11 replies


Release Date: 03/11/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A fine album that would have benefited from more forays into electronica in its mid to final third. The ballads are beautiful, even breathtaking when O'Connor features, but as Grant displays on the more experimental tracks, he is capable of so much more

'I wonder who they'll get to play me- maybe they'll dig up Richard Burton's corpse'

On 2010's 'The Queen of Denmark' John Grant was brilliantly, beautifully bitter and angry. The combination of Midlake's luscious instrumentation behind his deceptively smooth baritone and poisonously funny lyrics produced one of the records of the year by anyone's standards. To borrow a cliche, the more things have changed for Grant in the intervening three years the more they have stayed the same. He's still lyrically fixated upon a former lover but musically he's sprung a surprise- opener 'Pale Green Ghosts' is the now-familiar tale of woe and loneliness sound tracked not with strings but a pounding electronic beat. It's a downright eerie start, and that Grant not only makes it work but manages to sound recognizably like himself is a tribute to his talent and the power of that voice. When he segues into the positively danceable 'Black Belt' we are truly in alien territory. Were it not for the trademark brilliance of a line like 'Etch a sketch your way out of this, reject' we might as well be in Ibiza. That we are not is confirmed by the stunning 'GMF', notable not only for some of the funniest lyrics Grant has yet written but also for the appearance of Sinead O'Connor. The addition of her harmonies is a stroke of genius and she is sorely missed on 'Vietnam', a mid-tempo plodder where shorn of the trifecta of her vocals, electronica and Midlake, Grant proves himself to be human after all.

Not entirely coincidentally, things pick up again when O'Connor returns on 'It Doesn't Matter To Him'. This central part of the album is curious- it feels like Grant has abandoned experimentation in favour of what sounds like the more prosaic cuts from 'Queen of Denmark'. Welcomingly, those pulsing beats return on the staggering 'You Don't Have To', where Grant memorably intones 'Remember when we used to *** all night long....neither do I because I always passed out' over a shimmering dance track. If there were clubs in purgatory, one imagines its inhabitants might be dancing to this. The album proper ends with its most nakedly emotional cut: on 'Glacier', electronics are stripped back to leave just that voice, a gorgeous piano line and strings and a gut-wrenching metaphor. Not a perfect album, then, but an exceptionally brave one, both in terms of its lyrical content and the way in which it moves an established sound forward.



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user ratings (27)
Chart.
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Queen Of Denmark

Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
March 18th 2013


7423 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, especially since it's your first. Great choice of album too. I'll hopefully end up writing my own (slightly more positive) take at some point.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
March 18th 2013


7423 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just listened to this again, gets better every time. The only track I'm not too keen on is Sensitive New Age Guy, (i) because it seems a bit out of synch (ii) because it sounds way to similar to LCD Soundsystem.

teddycutler1
March 18th 2013


8 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks. On further reflection maybe it should be a 4. Do think it gets bogged down in the middle a little. Glacier is glorious though, he writes brilliant closers.

STOP SHOUTING!
April 9th 2013


639 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is pretty good!

greg84
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2013


7463 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Solid review. The synthpop tracks on this are really good. I need to listen more to decide on the verdict, but it seems you're right.

Ziio
May 14th 2013


55 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glacier is gorgeous.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
May 15th 2013


7423 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Everyone who's enjoying this should check out his debut Queen of Denmark, it's even better.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
May 15th 2013


7463 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

"Glacier is gorgeous."

^ I hear ya.

chtrenne
June 26th 2013


75 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I gave this a 4 because of his voice and the standout tracks (favorite being 'You Don't Have To')... but don't you think some of the lyrics are bordering on silly? Like... for instance... the one you highlighted in the first sentence? First listen was great, but every time I go back I find more cringe-worthy phrases. I might bump this down to a 3.5 later.

NorthernSkylark
September 9th 2014


4696 Comments


i don't really get the average here! sure there is a huge amount of bitterness/hate to be found on this record, and some tracks are actually annoying, but the amount of great stuff here should easily counter that.

good to jam when feeling angry as fuck

Digging: The Jesus and Mary Chain - Honey's Dead

IHadSevenFaces
October 10th 2014


10 Comments


God, Black Belt is such a tune.



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