John Grant – 'Pale Green Ghosts' album review

A feat of honesty and intellect, as starkly beautiful as it's sad

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John Grant – 'Pale Green Ghosts'

  • Rated as: 4/5

‘To say that I’m a man undone,’ sings John Grant on ‘Vietnam’, ‘is understatement at its worst’. He’s right – there are barely words to describe his day-to-day struggle with addiction, depression, unrequited love and his recent diagnosis as HIV positive. But on this second album, the Reykjavik-based, American singer manages a feat of honesty and intellect to find them.

Sometimes he turns his soft voice to histrionic metaphors – ‘Vietnam’ is so called because Grant’s lover’s scorn is like the biological weapon Agent Orange – though these are balanced against moments of self-aware humour, especially on the absurdly self-aggrandising ‘GMF’. Other times Grant simply lets it all spill out in unrestrained monologues that pull the listener into the role of  therapist.

But, like the Colorado trees that are referenced in its title, the album is as starkly beautiful as it’s sad. The bubbling electronic rhythms of Scandi-pop give Grant’s lyrics new edge and direction, but some tracks, including closer ‘Glacier’, revisit the lush, lonesome orchestration of his previous collaborators, Midlake. That song’s central metaphor is of an ice block of pain carving out a magnificent valley, and sums up the album’s unique appeal: even if Grant slides further into despair, his fans don’t have to come along for the ride, only enjoy the music he leaves in his wake.


Watch John Grant's 'Pale Green Ghosts' single video


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