John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts

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Surprised there's John Grant thread in general, I always thought he had a pretty committed ILM following. I didn't really engage with the last album at all but this one is... extraordinary. I mean I'm not sure I *like* all of it but it's unfailingly interesting. Also, 'Greatest Mother Fucker' is hilarious.

Matt DC, Wednesday, 13 March 2013 12:22 (six years ago) link

yeah I'd paid basically no attention to this dude before (do recall being astonished that it cost something like £16 to see him a couple of years back, but he was obv big enough to warrant it) but I think this is great

doesn't seem like an obvious ILM favourite at all, if anything more liable to get yelled at for doing fake Prince or whatever

Ohhhh what a great interview. This guy's music is not for me but I love him all the same

batteries not included (flamboyant goon tie included), Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:07 (six years ago) link

Queen Of Denmark is my favourite album of the decade thus far, JG is a staggeringly good live artist and a rare delight as an interviewee, and yet I'm finding Pale Green Ghosts to be well nigh unlistenable. There's confessional, and there's over-sharing. (Oh look, there's Sinead O'Connor, credited on track after track, and listed in the sleeve notes as "Mrs John Grant". That'll be part of my problem, then.)

mike t-diva, Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:23 (six years ago) link

DL really turned me on to his last album, which i'd have completely ignored if someone hadn't rhapsodised about it. incredible songwriting, great singing, just what he does is really distinct - can't think of many comparisons that really work.

only listened to the new one once, not sure what i think yet. the ~new electronic direction~ seemed a bit of a distraction but it might grow on me...

flamenco drop (lex pretend), Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:24 (six years ago) link

Oh look, there's Sinead O'Connor, credited on track after track, and listed in the sleeve notes as "Mrs John Grant".

also found all his friends all over this album another distraction, though possibly i'm just always more drawn to the idea of the singer-songwriter sequestered away in solitude rather than getting their famous musician mates round to jam

flamenco drop (lex pretend), Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:25 (six years ago) link

The only track I have issues with is Sensitive New Age Guy but he has a good explanation for how jarring it is, based on the man it's about:

Some people find it irritating, and I just feel like it is a perfect representation of what he was like in real life. Because of the way people are reacting to the song, saying that it’s out of place on my record. I mean, it’s perfect, it works.

The full story behind the guy in question is pretty staggering but it would have taken up half the feature.

Deafening silence (DL), Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:35 (six years ago) link

i didn't feel like the lyrics or narratives were overly jarring or confessional, particularly. it's a break-up album. i've heard worse things said.

flamenco drop (lex pretend), Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:41 (six years ago) link

It's certainly more monomaniacal than Queen of Denmark, which addressed several different areas of his life, but I don't have a problem with that.

Deafening silence (DL), Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:44 (six years ago) link

I've never heard Queen of Denmark but gave this a listen due to the Gusgus connection. It's phenomenal. What a great lyricist. Love the ernest borgnine track.

I am using your worlds, Tuesday, 19 March 2013 01:08 (six years ago) link

oh, and I really liked that article DL

I am using your worlds, Tuesday, 19 March 2013 01:13 (six years ago) link


Deafening silence (DL), Wednesday, 20 March 2013 10:25 (six years ago) link

I can't work out if I find his lyrics terrible or if they're just an awkward fit with the music, really. I'm still trying to work out my thoughts towards this album but I'm growing more and more impressed with i as time goes on.

Matt DC, Wednesday, 20 March 2013 10:28 (six years ago) link

three weeks pass...

i'm still not sure about this album - it's not hitting me like queen of denmark. i like the lyrical acidity and the production is pretty great but i don't think grant really knows how to write for dance music - often he tried to cram too many words, too many syllables in, and it ends up feeling a bit clumsy; not to mention the mismatch between lyrical thrust and musical vibe, which may well be intentional but it doesn't quite work...

flamenco drop (lex pretend), Friday, 12 April 2013 08:48 (six years ago) link

I think that's a fair assessment. I'm delighted to find people on here who loved QOD though. It didn't make it into ILX's albums of 2010 poll at all so I figured it was just me.

Deafening silence (DL), Friday, 12 April 2013 09:03 (six years ago) link

oh i think i only heard it after the poll as a result of you hyping it, it really is wonderful.

also don't feel like grant really knows how to perform to dance beats either - i love his voice but it feels too rigid on pale green ghosts, there's no release to it...

flamenco drop (lex pretend), Friday, 12 April 2013 09:06 (six years ago) link

But it's not dance music, by and large, although I think the two weakest and clumsiest tracks here are the danciest - Black Belt and Sensitive New Age Guy - for the reasons you mention. Cut those out and it's a great album.

It's at its best when he's either doing McCartneyesque songwriting filtered through Air circa Talkie Walkie, or at its most doom-laden. The first and last tracks in particular are astonishing, the arrangements in particular.

I went back to Queen of Denmark the other day and still wasn't feeling it and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's an excess of Midlake.

Matt DC, Friday, 12 April 2013 09:09 (six years ago) link

Those are the tracks I'd lose too. I like him more in 70s weepie mode, where the acid wit and deliberate ugliness of some of the lines contrasts with the creaminess of the voice and production. You lose that contrast with the dancier tracks.

It's Easier was the song that made me fall for him. It floors me.

Deafening silence (DL), Friday, 12 April 2013 09:12 (six years ago) link

FWIW I think the title track works (and works amazingly) because it's basically Depeche Mode with a gorgeous string arrangement on top, and you can tell Grant is more comfortable in that setting. The aforementioned two tracks feel stiff and lifeless and straitjacketed by comparison.

Matt DC, Friday, 12 April 2013 09:14 (six years ago) link

it's not just the housier tracks that feel stiff though - lots of the time the arrangement and the vocal don't quite work together. it has its moments though - i love "why don't you love me any more", his voice and sinéad's voice work incredibly together, and yeah the more trad stuff like "ernest borgnine" and "gmf" and "glacier" are great. just not as great as the peaks of QOD

flamenco drop (lex pretend), Friday, 12 April 2013 09:17 (six years ago) link

two weeks pass...

Ridiculously great album, I'd say. The question of whether or not it's 'dance' music is such a fucking red herring, this is more like a lost Harry Nilsson album from the 1980s combined with Grant's own fraught memories/lyrics.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 29 April 2013 18:14 (six years ago) link

will have to give this a listen. I loved most of the Czars work but I really didn't like Queen of Denmark at all. I think I made it through one listen. But I'll give him another chance, for sure.

akm, Monday, 29 April 2013 18:37 (six years ago) link

LOVING this. "Sensitive New Age Guy" aside, and I can accept that I'm not meant to love that.

Tim F, Saturday, 4 May 2013 13:33 (six years ago) link

When Grant is being particularly tough on himself he uses language that you can tell someone else has used against him, as if every insult is still embedded in him like shrapnel.

This is a ridiculously great line.

Josh in Chicago, Saturday, 4 May 2013 15:16 (six years ago) link

I can sort of accept Sensitive New Age Guy as a kind of bitchy James Murphy parody but it just doesn't sound very good. Still, I do like how this album goes through seemingly every post-breakup emotional stage at some point.

Where's the best place to start with Czars?

Matt DC, Saturday, 4 May 2013 15:30 (six years ago) link

The Ugly People vs The Beautiful People, imo

Tim F, Saturday, 4 May 2013 22:22 (six years ago) link

This album is even sadder than I realised ;_;

Tim F, Saturday, 11 May 2013 10:43 (six years ago) link

okay this album rules pretty hard

AMERICA IS ABOUT RESSLING (DJP), Wednesday, 15 May 2013 18:00 (six years ago) link

I really enjoyed his gig in Edinburgh on Sunday night. The songs from this album were great in a live setting.

treefell, Wednesday, 15 May 2013 18:35 (six years ago) link

Astounding in London last night. New songs sounded even better with heavier synths and Grant's charisma is through the roof - brutal candour interspersed with lols. I suspect a lot of people were hoping for more Queen of Denmark (five songs vs everything from PGG) but as a show it was faultless.

Deafening silence (DL), Thursday, 16 May 2013 09:04 (six years ago) link

Motherfucker, whoever did this:

After our show in Brighton tonight, someone who was apparently in the audience stole my computer off the stage, which has my entire life on it, i am shocked and just completely speechless, i don't understand why or how someone could do this, but if whoever took it is reading this, if you turn it in to the church where we played or leave it at Jurys Inn in Brighton, there will be no consequences, no questions asked. I have so many things on that computer which i need.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 16 May 2013 23:32 (six years ago) link

Fuck that shit, seriously :-(

Le Bateau Ivre, Thursday, 16 May 2013 23:39 (six years ago) link

Yes to hell with that. But this is probably suddenly my favorite thing of the year. And yes Tim correct about Ugly People vs. Beautiful People for Czars pick, that thing still makes me weak a decade later.

@GracieLoPan #fyi (Display Name (this cannot be changed):), Friday, 17 May 2013 00:30 (six years ago) link

I'm really digging this guy's countrypolitan vibe.

Darin, Saturday, 18 May 2013 19:48 (six years ago) link

stunning gig at cambridge last night. his self-deprecating, sweary and sad explanations of the songs from new album had me fall in love with it, which I found a lot less immediate than Queen of Denmark. Also did not realise how powerful the songs were when they were live with pulsating synths. He was pretty bitter about the laptop, but I think that made him angrier on some of the songs + 6 song encore!

danzig, Monday, 20 May 2013 00:06 (six years ago) link

for real though "GMF" is the song of the year, right?

scott seward, Thursday, 23 May 2013 23:50 (six years ago) link

you can't deny this song. i dare someone to deny this song.

scott seward, Thursday, 23 May 2013 23:52 (six years ago) link

its undeniable.

scott seward, Thursday, 23 May 2013 23:52 (six years ago) link

that is great

because of this thread i was listening to queen of denmark a lot

but the first 2 songs on the new one really threw me off w/the electronic direction

he's just really good at making 70s singer songwriter stuff he should stick to that

unfinest DN (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 24 May 2013 00:04 (six years ago) link

seriously, this dude's voice is fucking incredible

they are either militarists (ugh) or kangaroos (?) (DJP), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 15:23 (six years ago) link

Yes and yes again.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 4 June 2013 15:34 (six years ago) link

he's just really good at making 70s singer songwriter stuff he should stick to that

He is but thus my Nilsson-in-the-80s comparison point I made upthread. He's smart enough to know his metier AND to extend it.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 4 June 2013 15:35 (six years ago) link

I ordered this through Rough Trade MONTHS ago, when it was not yet released in the US. Now it is, it's everywhere, but I still haven't gotten anything from RT. Sucks, because I really want to buy it (yeah, I'm one of those crazy people you read about that still buys these things) but I know the day I do, there will be a package from Rough Trade in my door.

henry s, Tuesday, 4 June 2013 16:58 (six years ago) link

fortunately you can listen to it on Spotify while you wait for your copy to show up

they are either militarists (ugh) or kangaroos (?) (DJP), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 17:05 (six years ago) link

i've bought this but its also on grooveshart (if your office will not permit spotify).

give life back to old guys (Hunt3r), Tuesday, 4 June 2013 17:27 (six years ago) link

one month passes...

Holy shit is he ever great live. There wasn't a single track that didn't hit harder than the studio version.

Simon H., Thursday, 4 July 2013 13:19 (six years ago) link

fyi this album is pretty much flawless

big black nemesis, Puya chilensis (DJP), Friday, 5 July 2013 21:12 (six years ago) link

I like his singing on Queen of Denmark! It sounds so loose and fun. The couple times I've sat down with this one his voice sounds too mannered and cleaned up. Produced. Doesn't fit the material. Maybe I'll fall in love with it on next listen

flamboyant goon tie included, Friday, 5 July 2013 22:14 (six years ago) link

Paraphrasing a bit I just recalled from the live show: after taking a moment to mourn the advance of anti-gay laws in Russia, he mentions that he's just written a song about Putin entitled "Smug Cunt." "That's not a joke. And I don't care if he sprinkles polonium on my Pop Tarts." Pretty sure he launched into "Glacier" after that. <3 <3

Simon H., Saturday, 6 July 2013 06:19 (six years ago) link

I didn't know you could have a lyric like that with a voice like that. If Malkmus or Mark E Smith sang that line it would be funny but expected - Grant doesn't sing like someone funny and I find that dissonance exhilirating.

Don't get it -- how is what this guy is doing different from what e.g. Neil Hannon does?

(Don't get me wrong, I love Neil Hannon and think there should be more Neil Hannons. Neil Hannae?)

Guayaquil (eephus!), Sunday, 9 March 2014 20:50 (five years ago) link

It took me way too long to love this guy.

Bryan Fairy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 9 March 2014 20:50 (five years ago) link

He sings on the new Hercules and Love Affair album.

djh, Sunday, 9 March 2014 20:56 (five years ago) link

Don't get it -- how is what this guy is doing different from what e.g. Neil Hannon does?

Neil Hannon is often jokey, never funny

continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Sunday, 9 March 2014 21:41 (five years ago) link

I am at his London gig right now (husband duty) and am wondering why nearly every song kicks off with dreary 'Imagine' piano chords. Dude, change it up!

MaresNest, Sunday, 9 March 2014 22:23 (five years ago) link

wondering why this is getting the big push now - saw an advert on the tube earlier. good album but thought it was a bit more underground - dude's presumably gonna be everywhere now

I hope he ascends to being the most famous and celebrated

continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Sunday, 9 March 2014 23:58 (five years ago) link

given how GMF keeps popping into my consciousness at the oddest times, he may already be part of the way there

four weeks pass...

GAH no I'm not jealous oh no

Just over a year since the release of his critically-lauded second album Pale Green Ghosts, and with numerous Best Album of 2013 accolades and a Brit Award nomination to his name, JOHN GRANT has announced news of one of his most exciting ventures yet.

This November will see the former Czars frontman embark upon a seven-date tour accompanied by the Royal Northern Sinfonia in which John’s celebrated catalogue will be reworked and reimagined with a sumptuous orchestral setting, alongside the world premiere of some especially written new songs. John Grant’s creativity, unique songwriting and wonderful vocals combined with thirty four musicians promises a one-off musical experience. The tour will be orchestrated by Fiona Brice who has provided arrangements for the the likes of Roy Harper, Vashti Bunyan, Anna Calvi, Midlake, Placebo, as well as John himself.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 7 April 2014 16:54 (five years ago) link

six months pass...

'Outer Space' plays over a good scene in The Skeleton Twins

GhostTunes on my Pono (Sufjan Grafton), Friday, 10 October 2014 18:22 (four years ago) link

one month passes...

He played at the Royal Festival Hall last night with an orchestra backing him and it was fucking incredible, virtually flawless, like some early Scott Walker shit with added gigantic synths and self-loathing. I've seen him live before but this was something else, never quite appreciated how brilliantly he can pull off a sudden register jump before.

Matt DC, Monday, 1 December 2014 13:07 (four years ago) link

the 2013 album I most regret not discovering in time. His tunes on the Hercules & Love Affair record are good too.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 1 December 2014 14:26 (four years ago) link

Live album released today, backed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. I recorded it when originally broadcast on 6Music a few weeks ago; it's excellent.

mike t-diva, Monday, 1 December 2014 14:34 (four years ago) link

Saw him on Saturday night in Edinburgh and I can only echo what Matt DC said. In-fucking-credible. Hairs raised on my arms for half the gig. The Sinfonia using Rachmaninov's Prelude in C sharp minor to kick off Pale Green Ghosts was just something else. Glaciers, Queen of Denmark, JC Hates Faggots and GMF were all performed to perfection. That's The Good News was absolutely hilarious and the new material sounded like we have another real treat in store. Go see him if you can, you won't regret it.

finn_the_scot, Monday, 1 December 2014 21:25 (four years ago) link

Genuinely one of the greatest shows I've ever seen. The new songs - No More Tangles, Geraldine and Global Warming - were all great.

Re-Make/Re-Model, Monday, 1 December 2014 22:35 (four years ago) link

Envious beyond belief.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 2 December 2014 02:30 (four years ago) link

two weeks pass...

John Grant on Icelandic music.

djh, Sunday, 21 December 2014 15:35 (four years ago) link

... with a slight over emphasis on Blur's Beetlebum.

djh, Sunday, 21 December 2014 15:38 (four years ago) link

seven months pass...

Press release for his new album is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster - can't wait to hear the pairing of his voice w/Tracey Thorn's, but Amanda Palmer? Whyyyyyyyyy.

etc, Saturday, 8 August 2015 04:03 (three years ago) link

djh, Wednesday, 12 August 2015 21:34 (three years ago) link

That''s really quite a poor vocal performance from him, IMO and I generally like his vocals a lot. Her's ain't good either but I've nothing to compare it to, maybe she always sounds like that. I enjoyed the riff on yahoo's situation in the opening synth line and I liked the chorus but I don't really get the song overall.

Acting Crazy (Instrumental) (jed_), Friday, 14 August 2015 21:09 (three years ago) link

Haven't quite parsed that song yet but the chorus and the last couple of minutes are so good

the naive cockney chorus (Simon H.), Friday, 14 August 2015 21:20 (three years ago) link

I can't tell if the melodies are surprising or just not enjoyable. giving it time.

oh, i am a lonlely poster. i live in a box of posts. (Sufjan Grafton), Friday, 14 August 2015 21:42 (three years ago) link

one month passes...

Kinda baffled by the new album tbh? Feels overworked in every direction.

the naive cockney chorus (Simon H.), Thursday, 24 September 2015 17:51 (three years ago) link

New song is terrible, that register shift he does in the chorus is... not good at all.

Matt DC, Thursday, 24 September 2015 17:56 (three years ago) link

really love his Taylor Swift covers album

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 24 September 2015 18:02 (three years ago) link

Not in the US or Canada though -- but it turns out:

Ned Raggett, Friday, 2 October 2015 14:16 (three years ago) link

Hoping this is a grower as my first couple of listens have left me cold (and I much prefer Pale Green Ghosts over Queen of Denmark.)

Steve Reich In The Afternoon (Against The 80s), Friday, 2 October 2015 16:11 (three years ago) link

three weeks pass...

I really hate this guy's records for reasons I find hard to articulate. Spotify Discover playlist thinks I will like "Outer Space," apparently, but no. I guess it's the way he adopts this syrupy AM radio sound but doesn't DO anything with it, just kind of perfectly imitates it and then gapes at himself doing so.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Tuesday, 27 October 2015 18:35 (three years ago) link

this new album is way too cute

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 October 2015 19:15 (three years ago) link

Great show in Minneapolis last week. "Pale Green Ghosts" and "Queen of Denmark" (the songs) sounded best, but I was impressed by the new stuff too. "I am quite angry, which I barely can conceal" defined the approach, though he's also very gracious as a performer. His band played a big part in bringing the material across, tho the drums were a bit over-heavy at times.

Ys Man a.k.a. Have One on G (geoffreyess), Wednesday, 28 October 2015 01:58 (three years ago) link

"Snug Slacks" is a great song title.

Ys Man a.k.a. Have One on G (geoffreyess), Wednesday, 28 October 2015 01:58 (three years ago) link

I couldn't get more than half way through this one - a couple of the widescreen ballads were good, but wacky synthpop is his single worst mode and it was all over this.

Matt DC, Wednesday, 28 October 2015 09:01 (three years ago) link

Yeah, I'm struggling with a lot of this; much of the first half is jarring, and much of the second half re-treads familiar ground. My keepers: the title track, "No More Tangles", "Magma Arrives", "Disappointing". "Snug Slacks" is fun for a while, too.

mike t-diva, Wednesday, 28 October 2015 10:48 (three years ago) link

Tracey Thorn sounds ragged on "Disappointed," no?

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 October 2015 10:56 (three years ago) link

two years pass...

new single is nice, better than anything I can recall from the last LP

Simon H., Tuesday, 10 July 2018 19:01 (one year ago) link

four months pass...

So ILM doesn't really care for John Grant ? I'm not really convinced by his latest album's all electronic approach. I miss his piano and strings. Still has a great voice though. Has anyone else listened to it ?

LeRooLeRoo, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:16 (seven months ago) link

I tried - also found it underwhelming. First two albums still classic, hope he finds an appealing groove again.

resident hack (Simon H.), Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:18 (seven months ago) link

The title track is amazing but the album bounces back and forth for me. I do have a bit of a hard time with the 'funny voices' approach. He sounds like he's having fun though.

akm, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:25 (seven months ago) link

Sadly the more fun he's having the worse his music is. Last two albums have been corny as hell.

Matt DC, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:26 (seven months ago) link

True, but, at least there's still something there, unlike, say, Mark Kozelek, who also used to make beautiful music and now does...something different that he apparently finds more fulfilling but no one likes to listen to.

akm, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:32 (seven months ago) link

I do have a bit of a hard time with the 'funny voices' approach

Same here. It's barely listenable in "Diet Gum" and only tolerable in "Metamorphosis".

LeRooLeRoo, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:49 (seven months ago) link

Well it'll be interesting to see how that plays out live -- seeing him (finally) in two and a half weeks.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:58 (seven months ago) link

I'm seing him next Monday. It's his first time in Montréal. If he plays "Glacier" I'll be a very happy guy.

LeRooLeRoo, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 15:21 (seven months ago) link

I loved his collaboration with Wrangler that came out under the Creep Show moniker.

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Wednesday, 28 November 2018 16:26 (seven months ago) link

His tracks on the 2014 Hercules & Love Affair album are terrific, extensions of Pale Green Ghosts' coffee house electronica. It's been diminishing returns ever since.

I like queer. You like queer, senator? (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 28 November 2018 16:27 (seven months ago) link

So the concert was awesome. He really pulls off the new songs well live. The harmonies are great. He also spoke to us in perfect French many times. Added bonus, none other than the ledgendary Budgie is behind the drumkit and I got to speak with him and take pictures after the show.

LeRooLeRoo, Tuesday, 4 December 2018 13:26 (seven months ago) link

Wait, hold the fuck on, that was BUDGIE? How did I not clock that.

I gotta agree with LeRoo, just a wonderful show here in SF last night. "Pale Green Ghosts" got a particularly wonderful arrangement, queasily wonderful dark 80s electronics, and after it he said that reflected "four years of listening to Ministry's "Over the Shoulder" 12"...greatest remix ever." My girlfriend loved how the new album's "Metamorphosis" sounded live, saying it felt absolutely terrifying at the end. The main set closer of "Sensitive New Age Guy," "Glacier" and "Queen of Denmark" was an astounding 1-2-3.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 18 December 2018 03:29 (six months ago) link

Yes! PGG was huge and "Metamorphosis" is better live than on the album.

Budgie came down in the club after the show to buy a drink from the bar. When I started talking to him he said he was just taking it to John backstage and would come back to chat, and he actually did! Really nice guy and I was pretty starstruck.

LeRooLeRoo, Tuesday, 18 December 2018 13:42 (six months ago) link

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