In Pale Green Ghosts, sweary ex-Czars man, John Grant, presents an album of wonderful contradictions. In parts almost dirge-like folk rock, this incredibly raw and openly confessional record is also awash with poppy electronica.
This makes Pale Green Ghosts frustratingly changeable in pace and likeability. But perseverance pays. Grant’s ability move seamlessly from flabby beats, synthy strings and squeaky tweets to staid rock – and back again – makes this feel like a complete Radiohead retrospective condensed to 12 tracks.
In places it threatens to provide schoolboy poetry. Glacier particularly fringes on the more winsome elements of The Divine Comedy. Yet like the Divine Comedy it soars most unexpectedly out of these am-dram moments to be a thing of beauty. Grant’s rich, deep vocal also brings Neil Hannon to mind.
On Why don’t you love me any more?, Grant tells things as they are, yet remains poetic. In some ways he’s a bit like Morrissey. But clearly these fussy meanderings are derived from a bucket full of black emotion from Grant’s personal life. The singer has gone through drink and drugs problems and recently revealed that he has been diagnosed HIV positive. This helps dispel doubts about his lyrics, putting them in serious context.
More happily meanwhile, Blackbelt is a slice of Scissors Sisters underpinned by words written by a man who has seemingly swallowed a dictionary. It is a stomping, bleeping, slapping masterpiece. And the bass-y title track should be cranked up to 10 on the car stereo, with the windows down as you cruise slowly around a small town striking fear in the hearts of members of the local Rotary Club.
Tracks with downbeat titles such It doesn’t matter to him, and I hate this town, mean this collection has little mass-market appeal for sure. What’s more, Pale Green Ghosts’ genre-crossing nature makes it one for a musical connoisseur. But you’re a connoisseur aren’t you? Otherwise why would you be reading a review on Neonfiller.com?
So go on. Give it a listen.
by Rob Finch
Editors note: It’s also worth checking out John Grant’s debut album Queen of Denmark, where he is backed by the mid 70s folk rock sounds of Midlake. It is also a marvelous album. Here’s a clip of one of its standout tracks Mars.