John Grant TAOTL

John Grant – The Art Of The Lie

If you read my recent interview with John Grant, you will be aware that he was listening to a lot of Prince while making his fifth solo album, The Art Of The Lie, along with Cameo, Whodini and Grandmaster Flash. It’s not always abundantly evident but you definitely notice flashes here and there, with the Cameo reference most apparent on opening track ‘All That School For Nothing‘ which reminds us that, hey, vocoders CAN sound great if they are used effectively, and, quite apart from the codpiece wearing New York outfit, there are definitely echoes of Earth Wind and Fire‘s ‘Let’s Groove‘ here too, as well as, bizarrely, Curiosity Killed The Cat‘s ‘Down To Earth‘. But don’t let that put you off. This is an absolute blast of a track with entertaining lyrics and an irresistibly catchy refrain.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this whole album is going to be one ultra-groovy funkathon though. It isn’t, and we discover this quickly, with the next three tracks – ‘Marbles‘, ‘Father‘ and ‘Mother And Son‘ – all being somewhat downbeat, although ‘Marbles‘ is less so, with that typical self-deprecating John Grant humour at its fore, the opening gambit lamenting that “I’ve always had the poise of a newborn giraffe.” If anyone has written a more appealing first line to a song in 2024, I’m yet to hear it!

Father‘ on the other hand is simply devastating, with its evocative nostalgic memories and crushing refrain of “And sometimes I just want to run into your arms and let you hold me once again / I feel ashamed because I couldn’t be the man you always hoped that I would become.” It’s arguably the most touching song Grant has ever written. A real tearjerker. And then he hits us with ‘Mother And Son‘!

Starting with the female spoken words “He had put the Midway tattoo on his arm ’cause he loved that ship…” on a loop, in a similar vein to the end of ‘Asleep‘ by The Smiths, I am unsure as to whether this is a recording of Grant’s mother herself or not, but my goodness, is this a poignant number or what? Rachel Sermanni’s sudden introduction at the chorus is nothing short of jaw-dropping, on a slow but ultimately gorgeous track, dripping with love, which seems to be about a mother whose son dies while fighting for his country. It’s heart-wrenching.

A skit called ‘Twistin’ Scriptures‘ is the bridge towards the more funk oriented side of The Art Of The Lie, with ‘Meek AF‘ a fiercely incredulous swipe at the American right wing faction that unexpectedly, and rather gloriously, features a rap halfway through, before the fabulous ‘It’s A Bitch‘, which is clearly where the Prince influence comes in, with a tinge of Yello, the Swiss band, as John himself told me, being a large part of what made him want to make this album.

Daddy‘ is beautiful and cinematic, while ‘The Child Catcher‘ is a song of two halves, a moody, Dystopian soundtrack feel for the first half of its seven minutes, giving way to a gentler melody and eventually, a hair raising guitar outro from Leo Abrahams. I get goosebumps every time.

Laura Lee‘ and ‘Zeitgeist‘ end the album with John in introspective mood, and the rather ominous lyric “The world keeps telling me that I don’t need to be with anybody / I am all I need to myself / I think they have been misinformed / Their formulas won’t weather storms / The zeitgeist fruit is full of worms / And in the end I know that I need you.”

Well John, have no fear – we need you in our lives too. Especially if you’re going to continue to make spectacular records like this one!


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.