John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts (Bella Union)

John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts (Bella Union)

‘I am the greatest motherfucker you will ever meet…you could be happy 65% more of the time’ (GMF)

Contained within these two lines is the giant contradiction which is John Grant: a deserved, musical, lyrical, and moralistic superiority complex, juxtaposed with a kind-hearted, sometimes bathetic humanism, and an always-present sympathy with the ‘loser’.

When the openly-gay – and now openly HIV-positive – singer-songwriter won the best Mojo album award for his debut album ‘Queen Of Denmark’ a couple of years ago, the listening world really started listening (after many years of his toiling away as one part of The Czars). ‘QOD’ was a compelling piano-fest of lost, betraying love and sardonic lyrics spread evenly over some of the most exquisite Fallen-Glam songwriting ever heard.

Europhiliac Denverian Grant spent time in Germany and exploring the relative open-mindedness of the old continent, before deciding to record this second album in Iceland (with Biggi Veira of Gus Gus). So far, so very right-on, quality raised-eyebrowed, so very…Bella Union (Grant’s UK record label). So what has changed? Most notably, Grant continues in his unique songwriting vein, but over much of the set embracing ELECTRO, with the black-clad and eyelinered likes of Depeche Mode, Bauhaus, Kraftwerk, and even Vangelis looming needle-ready in the shadows of every corner.

‘Pale Green Ghosts’ peaks with the arrival and help of one Sinead O’Connor, wrong-footing the critics by cooing fabulously along with Grant on the spectral ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Him’. Elsewhere, Grant is his controlled, almost retentively-sad self on ‘You Don’t Have To’, lots of Jean Michel Jarre keyboard washes here, or over the pure-bred gay white funk of ‘Black Belt’ or ‘Sensitive New Age Guy’, mirroring Prince, Portecho, Scissor Sisters or Justin Timberlake at their most flaming.

John Grant has the completely self-absorbed ability to tune his stately baritone voice to a cornucopia of post-modern styles, whilst remaining permanently, intractably pissed off with how he’s been treated in relationships. ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ is an album truly of it’s time: false-modest, infuriatingly passive-aggressive yet monumentally artistically ambitious, all at the same time.



God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.