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John Grant
Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (0ctober 2nd, 2015)

John Grant — Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (0ctober 2nd, 2015)

  John Grant — Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (October 2nd, 2015)
≡   2 x LP orange and lavender coloured vinyl. John Grant’s third solo album Grey Tickles, Black Pressure arrives in North America on October 2nd via Partisan Records! It’s been a spectacular journey, from a time when John Grant feared he’d never make music again or escape a life of addiction, to international accolades, collaborations with Sinead O’Connor, Goldfrapp and Elton John, and most recently a Best International Male Solo Artist nomination at the 2014 BRITS alongside the likes of Justin Timberlake and Drake. Grey Tickles, Black Pressure marks the next step in that journey. The album was produced by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans) and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. Lyrically and musically, the 12 original songs represent Grant’s most ambitious work, cementing his reputation as the most brutally honest, caustic, profound and funny diarist of the human condition.
≡   Grey Tickles in the album title, according to press notes, draws direct translation from “midlife crisis” in Icelandic, while “Black Pressure” translates to “nightmare” in Turkish, reflecting the darkly introspective subjects on the album. “I wanted to get moodier and angrier on this record,” explains Grant, “but I probably had a lot more fun making it.”
Born: 25 July 1968, Buchanan, MI, United States
Location: Parker, Colorado
Album release: October 2nd, 2015
Record Label: Partisan / Bella Union
Duration:     57:30
Tracks:
01. "Intro"      1:37
02. "Grey Tickles, Black Pressure"      5:30
03. "Snug Slacks"      4:12
04. "Guess How I Know"      3:34
05. "You & Him"      3:26
06. "Down Here"      4:09
07. "Voodoo Doll"      3:08
08. "Global Warming"      4:05
09. "Magma Arrives"      5:03
10. "Black Blizzard"      4:48
11. "Disappointing"      4:56
12. "No More Tangles"      6:09
13. "Geraldine"      6:22
14. "Outro"      0:30
Personnel:
≡   Chris Pemberton, Pétur Hallgrímsson, Jakob Smári Magnússon, Aron Arnarsson, Kiddi Agnarsson
≡   John Grant — lead vocals
≡   Amanda Palmer — guest vocals
≡   Tracey Thorn — guest vocals
≡   Budgie — drums
≡   Jakob Smári Magnússon — bass
≡   Pétur Hallgrímsson — guitar
Credits:
≡   John Congleton — produced  (St. Vincent, Swans)
≡   Greg Calbi — mastered at Sterling Sound
Development:
≡   Grant stated that he wanted to get angrier and moodier on this record although he enjoyed the process of making this album more than the previous two. The album’s trailer features Grant in what appears to be after a psychotic break, covered in blood and yielding a croquet mallet as a weapon. Grant described it as a fantasy of what he would like to do every time somebody calls him a faggot.
≡   Tracey Thorn previously of Everything but the Girl features on vocals on the track "Disappointing". The album’s other two guests are vocalist Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls and former Siouxsie and the Banshees drummer Budgie.
Description:
≡   “Grey Tickles” in the album title draws direct translation from “midlife crisis” in Icelandic, while “Black Pressure” translates to “nightmare” in Turkish, reflecting the darkly introspective subjects on the album. “I wanted to get moodier and angrier on this record,” explains Grant, “but I probably had a lot more fun making it.”
≡   The album opens in an unsettling swirl of overlapping voices repeating 1st Corinthians 13:4 in multiple languages before dissolving into fuzz, and closes with the same passage read clearly, this time by a young girl. In between, Grant’s depth and range are vividly present as he further refines and entwines his two principal strands of musical DNA, the sumptuous tempered ballad and the taut, fizzing electronic pop song. “Voodoo Doll” is an ode to a depressed lover, drenched in bright synths and pulsing bass lines, while “Guess How I Know” is a bonafide hell–raiser, its snarling guitar licks layered with distortion as Grant sings about a toxic yet irresistible relationship. Title track “Grey Tickles, Black Pressure” blends swelling strings and choral harmonies with Grant’s darkly biting humor, as he tackles his HIV diagnosis with equal parts confusion and clarity (“I’m supposed to believe that there’s some guy who’ll take the pain away / There are children who have cancer, and so all bets are off / ‘Cause I can’t compete with that”). Tracey Thorn, Amanda Palmer and former Banshees drummer Budgie appear as guests on the album.
≡   Rolling Stone calls Grant’s music “richly textured, both musically and emotionally” and NPR Music’s Bob Boilen says, “John Grant’s songs don’t mess around.” Grant recently performed with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra for BBC Radio 6 Music and just wrapped a North American tour with The Pixies. Grant will tour North America in support of the new music with a full band this October.
≡   John Grant’s third album, the invitingly titled Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, is a veritable tour–de–force that further refines and entwines his two principal strands of musical DNA, the sumptuous tempered ballad and the taut, fizzing electronic pop song. There are newer musical accomplishments across its panoply of towering sound, like the title track's new steely demeanour, while the ominous drama of "Black Blizzard" echoes both John Carpenter and Bernard 'Black Devil Disco Club' Fevre's beautiful and icy synthscapes. The contagious, gleeful "You And Him" marries buzzing rock with a squelchy electronic undertow, while orchestral drama swathes the bad–dreamy "Global Warming" and the album's gorgeously aching widescreen finale "Geraldine".
≡   Grey Tickles, Black Pressure was recorded in Dallas with producer John Congleton (St Vincent, Franz Ferdinand, Swans) — coincidentally the same state of Texas where Grant nailed his 2010 solo debut Queen Of Denmark in the company of Denton’s wondrous Midlake. After that landmark return, which MOJO made its album of 2010, 2013's Pale Green Ghosts was made in Icelandic capital Reykjavik (where Grant has lived ever since), which entered the UK Top 20 in its first week and ended up as Rough Trade Shop's Album of the Year 2013, The Guardian’s No.2 and in MOJO and Uncut's Top Five). Such recognition, iced by years of sell–out shows across Europe and a recent US tour as special invited guest of the Pixies, should allow the notoriously self–critical and insecure Grant the passing thought that Grey Tickles, Black Pressure will deservedly cement his reputation as the most disarmingly honest, caustic, profound and funny diarist of the human condition in the persistently testing, even tragic, era that is the 21st century.
Label: http://store.bellaunion.com/
Label: http://www.partisanrecords.com/
Website: http://johngrantmusic.com/biography/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/johnwgrant
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/johngrantmusic
Press:
UK: duncan@bellaunion.com
USA: mhanks@shorefire.com
Agent:
USA: Sam Kirby: SKirby@wmeentertainment.com UK/ROW: Rob Challice: rob@codaagency.com
Biography:
≡   It’s been the most spectacular of journeys, from a place in time when John Grant feared he’d never make music again or escape a life of addiction, to winning awards, accolades and Top 20 chart positions, and collaborating with Sinead O’Connor, Goldfrapp, Elton John and Hercules & Love Affair. The fact he subsequently won a Best International Male Solo Artist nomination at the 2014 BRITS alongside Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Drake, seemed like some fantasy dreamt up in a moment of outrageous hubris. Just months later, the BBC’s request for a session with symphony orchestra provided (subsequently released by Bella Union as John Grant And The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra: Live in Concert), followed by Grant taking the Royal Northern Sinfonia on a UK tour, confirmed that it was simply the latest spectacular chapter in his personal and artistic renaissance.
≡   Now comes Grant’s third album, the invitingly titled Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, a veritable tour de force that further refines and entwines his two principal strands of musical DNA, the sumptuous tempered ballad and the taut, fizzing electronic pop song. There are newer musical accomplishments across its panoply of towering sound, like the title track’s new steely demeanour, while the ominous drama of “Black Blizzard” echoes both John Carpenter and Bernard ‘Black Devil Disco Club’ Fevre’s beautiful and icy synthscapes. The contagious, gleeful “You And Him” marries buzzing rock with a squelchy electronic undertow, while orchestral drama swathes the bad–dreamy “Global Warming” and the album’s gorgeously aching widescreen finale “Geraldine”.
≡   Grey Tickles, Black Pressure was recorded in Dallas with producer John Congleton (St Vincent, Franz Ferdinand, Swans) — coincidentally the same state of Texas where Grant nailed his 2010 solo debut Queen Of Denmark in the company of Denton’s wondrous Midlake, after an enforced absence following the implosion of his band The Czars and a period of six years learning to live and survive without all his former crutches.
≡   After that landmark return, which MOJO made its album of 2010, 2013’s Pale Green Ghosts was made in Icelandic capital Reykjavik (where Grant, a native of Buchanan, Michigan, later raised in Parker, Colorado, has lived ever since), which entered the UK Top 20 in its first week and ended up as Rough Trade Shop’s Album of the Year 2013, The Guardian’s No.2 and in MOJO and Uncut’s Top Five). Such recognition, iced by years of sell–out shows across Europe and a recent US tour as special invited guest of the legendary Pixies, should allow the notoriously self–critical and insecure Grant the passing thought that Grey Tickles, Black Pressure will deservedly cement his reputation as the most disarmingly honest, caustic, profound and funny diarist of the human condition in the persistently testing, even tragic, era that is the 21st century.
≡   “I do think the album’s great, and I’m really proud of it,” he says. “I wanted to get moodier and angrier on this record, but I probably had a lot more fun making it.” He cites “amazing” session keyboardist Bobby Sparks, “who really funked things up,” as part of that fun; likewise a month of Dallas sunshine “after a brutal dark winter in Iceland. And there was a lot of laughter.”
≡   That said, fun isn’t the first ingredient you’d expect when you know the root of the album title. “‘Grey tickles’ is the literal translation from Icelandic for ‘mid–life crisis’, while ‘black pressure’ is the direct translation from Turkish for ‘nightmare’,” Grant explains, an unusually gifted linguist (he’s fluent in German, Russian and now tackling Icelandic). And then there is the album artwork, a stark portrait of a blood–splattered Grant wielding a blood–stained croquet mallet. “It’s what I feel like doing every time someone calls me a faggot”, he declares, “like Michael Douglas in Falling Down”.
≡   Nevertheless, there are plenty of positive streaks in Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Grant, for one, is in fabulous voice throughout and has moved on from the specific subject matter that shaped both previous albums (though the concept of love always figures into the mix). “Disappointing” — featuring vocal guest Tracey Thorne — is an exuberant tribute to new love, against which Grant’s favourite Saturday Night Live comediennes, Russian artists and “ballet dancers with or without tights” pale in comparison. The album’s other two guests are vocalist Amanda Palmer and former Banshee’s drummer Budgie. Petur Hallgrimsson (guitar) and Jakob Smari Magnusson (bass) from Grant’s live band, and returning arranger Fiona Brice, complete what was a particularly happy studio family.
≡   Even the album’s creative process was a triumph against adversity. Having had to include new material for the orchestral tour, John Congleton then asked that Grant turn up in Dallas with all the new material written. In spite of being exceedingly untalented in the art of time management AND the dark, brutal Icelandic winter which always takes a toll, “I got everything written in time,” he says. “And then it was all recorded and mixed in a month — which for me is insane, because I always want more time and I’m such an over–thinker. But I had to be finished before the Pixies tour. I intentionally put myself into that situation because I wanted to challenge myself, as I’ve done with every album.”
≡   But the end result is indeed a moody, angry record, laced with levering humour and wounded pathos, yet as dark as Reykjavik in February. It starts and ends with spoken word snippets called, simply, “Intro” and “Outro”, both taken from the same Biblical quote (from 1 Corinthians 13) regarding the divinity of love that young John was taught in church. In between are 12 songs that document the reality of love on planet Earth, corrupted by “pain, misunderstandings, jealousy, objectification and expectations,” as Grant puts it.
≡   Love corrupted is explored by the likes of the dreamy AOR–gasm “Down Here”, with its “oceans of longing, guessing games and no guarantees,” according to Grant. The funky Crisco–disco of “Snug Slacks” rails against those beautiful people — “the modern celebrity,” he says — who so unnerve him, forcing him “to have developed such a very high tolerance for inappropriate behaviour” as the lyric puts it. But there is hatred too. “You And Him” rails against those who’d crush all before them, from the profiteering US food and tobacco industries to property developers and those thugs who perpetuate prejudice and bigotry. The title track (name–checking Grant’s Uncle Paul, who did lose his arm in a corn thresher) posits that “children who have cancer” means we mustn’t indulge in self–pity. However, he notes, we must grin and bare it while waiting for death to take everything we’ve fought so hard to gain.
≡   The twisting electro–rhythmic “Voodoo Doll” is a counterbalance, “for a friend who is far away in the throes of depression. I make a voodoo doll and do good things to it, even though things invariably gets messy!” If only Grant had such a benefactor when young, blushing uncontrollably with shame, “my skin turned inside out,” an awful memory brought to life in the simmering cauldron of “Magma Arrives”.
≡   The album’s last two songs are among its finest. “No More Tangles” fights against co–dependency “with narcissistic queers,” he sings, through the metaphor of hair care products. “It’s about not apologizing for who you are and not putting up with unnecessary bullshit from people who do not care about you. Although my story is no more or less important than anyone else’s, at least at this point I can admit to being a human who deserves to be happy no more or less than anyone else.” But in “Geraldine” (as in the late Geraldine Paige, “one of freakiest, strongest, coolest actresses I’ve come across”), Grant’s latest actor–inspired song (following “Sigourney Weaver” and “Ernest Borgine”) is Grant’s chance to ask her if she too had to, “put up with this shit,” that life dishes out.
≡   Ongoing health issues (not least of which is handling his HIV Positive status), still processing, “decades of brainwashing,” he says from a traumatic childhood, Grant still manages to keep fighting the good fight, and writing his way out of trouble with another fantastic record. “I want to continue to challenge myself,” he says. “To keep collaborating, to get the sound or the direction that will take me where I need to go. To keep taking the bull by the horns.”
Albums:
with The Czars:
1996: Moodswing
1997: The La Brea Tar Pits of Routine
2000: Before...But Longer
2001: The Ugly People vs. the Beautiful People
2004: Goodbye
2005: Sorry I Made You Cry
Solo:
2010: Queen of Denmark
2013: Pale Green Ghosts
2013: "Gets Schooled" EP Rough Trade Records with duet versions of five tracks from Rough Trade's Album of the Year "Pale Green Ghosts"
2014: John Grant and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra : Live in Concert
2015: Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
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John Grant
Grey Tickles, Black Pressure (0ctober 2nd, 2015)

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