JOHN GRANT – ” Grey Tickles, Black Pressure “

Posted: December 17, 2016 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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He’s survived addiction, depression, heartbreak, homophobic abuse, and a HIV-positive diagnosis. With a typically candid third album , things are finally looking up for John Grant?

How is John Grant? “Well, you know, I’m not sure how I am.” It is perhaps a fair response to the standard how-are-you conversation opener. Grant’s thoroughly eventful life – one of addiction, depression and disease – is a matter of record. But when you ask the singer how he is, there’s something more immediate on his mind – or rather, his stomach. “I’ve just had some horse. For lunch.”

It is apparently a delicacy in Iceland, his home of four years, from where he speaks. “Horse. They just put it in front of me. It tasted fine, but I didn’t feel very comfortable.” Then, he deadpans: “Oh God, you’re not friends with Morrissey, are you?”

Approaching 50, sober for over a decade, safely ensconced in Iceland, he seems to be acquiring a somewhat calmer existence. His third solo album, is “a very positive record,” Grant insists, though it might occasionally suggest otherwise. The title, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, comprises the rough English translations for ‘midlife crisis’ and ‘nightmare’ in Icelandic and Turkish, respectively.

“When people are weird and messed up, I’m just fine with that” – John Grant

For someone with such an unusually turbulent life, is significant. It might almost seem trite to recapitulate his past troubles, had he not himself offered them up so candidly through his music. They’re there in the brutally autobiographical 2010 song Jesus Hates Faggots, a devastating account of his homophobic father; and in 2013’s Ernest Borgnine, in which he sings of finally kicking his alcohol and drug addictions, only to learn he is HIV-positive.

It’s there throughout his first two albums, which both had a defining theme of heartbreak, two highly cathartic records about coping with the exit of a man he thought was The One. “There are one or two songs left over from that period. There’s one on this record called Guess How I Know, which I tried to do for the last one. It’s always going to be a part of me, but I don’t feel any of the pain any more. And that’s nice.”

Which is not to say that Grey Tickles, Black Pressures is without its darker moments or provocative edges. Grant’s shrewd lyricism immediately comes to the fore in track two, the title song, which offers this startling chorus: “There are children who have cancer, so all bets are off… I can’t compete with that.”

After baring his soul for two albums, is it a song about gaining perspective? “Every album that I do is about letting go and getting perspective. It’s about the need to stop trying to control the things that you can’t control and let go of them, and get perspective. Because somebody like me tends to think along the lines of: my problems don’t matter and I don’t matter. That’s not true.”




By any standard, Grant’s influences are multifarious. But broadly, you could say he follows a fairly unique dichotomy: between the slower, 1970s-influenced guitar-driven ballads that characterised his debut solo LP Queen of Denmark, and the poppier, 1980s-influenced electro-disco of follow-up Pale Green Ghosts. Grey Tickles, Black Pressure feels like a wondrous blend of them both.


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