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4.6 out of 5 stars144
4.6 out of 5 stars
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I fully admit that "Pale Green Ghosts" was a bit of a shock when I first heard it. Having truly loved "Queen Of Denmark", I then delved back into John's past work to discover all of The Czars' albums and in the space of just a couple of years went from not really knowing about John Grant to being a huge fan of his work. It's actually only because of my respect for him and the fact that one track, in particular, "Glacier" struck me as a work of genius did I play this album more than once because, I have to be honest, when I listened to it for the very first time, I really disliked it. I'm not a fan of modern electronica (although it you're talking about late seventies and eighties electronic music, I'm rather partial) and much of the album grated. However, I persevered, started to enjoy a few more tracks, went to see John in concert in Cambridge and then, as if by magic, the next time I listened to it, this intricate jigsaw of an album really came together and I was able to thoroughly enjoy the whole album from start to finish, particularly enjoying the textures and dynamics of this unusual piece of work. There are hints of the beautiful big balladry of "Queen Of Denmark", but those who wanted an exact replica of that magnificent album and aren't open to something quite different and adventurous from Grant are possibly going be disappointed by at least half of the tracks here. You really do have to widen your horizons a little or have a penchant for the sort of music he has embraced here to enjoy this release, but for those who are able to embrace the changes or who choose to listen to electronica anyway, this album has so much to offer and each repeat playback rewards the listener with a greater return.

Album opener and title-track "Pale Green Ghosts" (named after the olive trees adorning the roadside near Grant's home in Colorado) still isn't one I have warmed to fully and proves to be a low-key start to the album, although it is most definitely a bold electronic statement that this project is something completely different to his solo breakthrough. The excellent "Black Belt" has robotic rhythms and some bitchy, pithy lyrics that match the cold, detached feel of the song perfectly and the slightly bitter but undeniably likeable, self-promoting yet self-deprecating "GMF" is the first track, musically, on "Pale Green Ghosts" that could have comfortably fit on this album's predecessor. "Vietnam", the sound of a man battling against his (ex?) partner's unforgiving silence, has a musically hollow verse but the sumptuously melodic chorus, augmented by soothing strings, is like aural honey, sweet, soothing and completely contradictory to the pain expressed in the lyrics. The heartbreakingly beautiful "It Doesn't Matter To Him" sees John pouring his sadness and frustration out into some gentle, dignified musings that anybody who has been involved in a painful break-up will understand and empathise with. The instrumental epilogue of the track is dreamy and gorgeous; an exquisite end to an emotive piece. "Why Don't You Love Me Anymore" is less likeable, however, and is quite a bleak, angry synth-laden track that covers the same ground as the previous song, but with a little less restraint.

"You Don't Have To", with its slightly eighties sound simple synthesiser motif, is a wistful, tender reminiscence about a lost relationship with some amusingly biting, honest lyrics, whereas "Sensitive New Age Guy" is an up-tempo slice of electronica which, although has some interesting synth touches, is a bit less enjoyable than most of the other tracks. The sonically bleak "Ernest Borgnine" isn't really to my taste, either, but the superb "I Hate This Town" (with a chorus almost borrowed from ABBA's "Chiquitita", according to Grant) truly raises the bar once more. It is almost as if the very best was saved for last on "Pale Green Ghosts", as the last composition, "Glacier", an intelligent, fierce rebuttal of homophobic slander and hatred is truly magnificent, featuring a sublime vocal performance by John and a classically-tinged piano and strings climax that is both beautiful and passionate in equal measure. Even if a lot of the album isn't to your taste because of the electronic content, I would defy anyone who enjoyed "Queen Of Denmark" to listen to "Glacier" and not be blown away; it's a moment of sheer genius on a creative, eclectic album that has so many more excellent tracks than not. It's the track that forced me to re-listen to the album time and time again and to turn an, at first, uncomfortable listening experience into something that is now one of my favourite records of 2013. I imagine "Pale Green Ghosts" isn't for everybody and it very nearly wasn't for me, but a willingness to absorb the new direction and a little perseverance could mean that it slowly turns into one of your favourites of the year too.
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on 13 May 2014
A brilliant collection of self deprecating and darkly humorous tracks which expose the pain of depression, lost love, addiction and personal destruction. There is a strong element of loathing of some previous lover evident, but hope and uplifting moments are present also. I was prompted to go and see John Grant and his band in concert and I wasn't disappointed, a top class performer. Highlights are GMF, Glacier, Vietnam and Pale green ghosts
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on 14 March 2013
"Who is this dude?",I asked myself. How come I have never heard of him? Hell! I can hear a lot of pain here. Oh, he's got some dry wit too.......

It must have been hard to deal with middle American homophobia and his own, wrong footed ,self accusatory doubt about his sexuality being the source of his ills, but, by grief, this man is an epiphany.

Being diagnosed HIV pos is a terrible burden and my heart goes out to him for the difficulties He traverses, but JG sure as heck has created a superb means of getting his thoughts on it out there.

Individual track synopsis is not my style however I do want to state that this whole album is a treasure.

I hate small mindedness and having seen it first hand in that open air asylum between NY and LA. I am so glad there are musicians such as John beating around to expose it to the glare of reason. Judge a person on their merits, not some narrow minded, medieval, hill billy, white bread bigotry.

Gay, straight, up, down, left , right, vegetable, mineral or whatever. Who cares!! What matters is respecting people and their choices, great music, articulate prose and a dark fun, sense of the ridiculous.

Mr Grant you made me a believer. I couldn't care less about your orientation, just that you get your music out to as large an audience as possible.

Buy this and listen over either an effeminate European style coffee or strong malt scotch. Make your own mind up about the meanings within, but do not dismiss. This is important stuff, better than 99.9 % of the fabricated fluff being f£&ted out by Simon Cowell and his ilk.

Pure talent.
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on 13 March 2014
Having heard a couple of tracks on YT I decided this was a must purchase. Grants pleasing baritone eases you into a world of deeply felt emotion, wry humour and honest revelation concerning health, fame, relationships and shared experience. Sonically he taps into an electro vibe, using analogue and digital technology with taste and skill never overplaying his hand at the expense of song-writing skill. Lyrics flow with a sense of abstraction and stream of consciousness with the occasional rhyme creating points of structural underpinning. This allows the listener to anchor themselves within the meaning of his stories without feeling that he is cutting you adrift with no points of easy reference. He teases you into his world and then gives you a shove in the guts as you empathise with his predicaments and insights. Intelligent and artful music for adults looking to reflect their life experience with all its uncertainties, disappointments and rare flashes of joy.
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on 15 February 2014
More of an electronic, Icelandic feel than the debut Midlake backed Queen of Denmark, this is nonetheless a wonderful album. The voice and songs are stunning. Ignore the haters, you don't have to be gay to appreciate this…..thought we were beyond all that by now.
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on 7 October 2014
After the excellent Queen of Denmark expectations were high for the follow-up, but this initially disappointed. Whereas Queen of Denmark consisted of a unified set of well produced, lyrically appealing tracks culminating in the brutal title track, this set is bleaker with sparse instrumentation and less QoD/Czars melodies which made those sometimes bitter lyrics more appealing. The reliance on often intrusive keyboards is less effective than the lush Midlake/orchestral backing of QoD, but works on tracks like Pale Green Ghosts quite well. As befitting an Iceland-based set the themes are also bleaker, again JG's coming to terms with sexuallity/relationship angst and his declared misanthropy in tracks like I Hate this F- Town and It Don't Matter to Him. The frequent expletives aren't really a problem, though an artist of JG's stature proved he could convey his anger or sour perspectives on life without them on QoD. There are a couple of tracks such as Glacier that do fit the QoD template quite well, with JG's mighty voice grabbling your attention-which is a plus. The cover is less eigmatic than QoD's bonkers one, though the imposing suited JG scowling menacingly n this cover is a little offbeat. An intriquing album and a decent album but less appealing to me than QoD. It'll be interesting to hear where JG goes on the next album.
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on 4 January 2014
I had no prior knowledge of John Grant's music but a chance listen on Deezer led me to buy this CD for the car. Pale Green Ghosts is electronic music for grown-ups. The lyrics tell of failed love affairs and stubborn independence while the tunes itself are memorable and haunting if not exactly dancefloor-ready. If you're in the mood for something unusual and thoughtful but don't want to venture as far as an acoustic album to get there, give this a go.
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on 30 December 2013
john grant is a god. who else could sing to my soul like him with his angry, funny, occasionally profane lyrics and that velvet voice that weakens me at the knees and "has the nerve to make me feel"? he touches me and anyone who can move me to tears these days has a talent i could only be jealous of. its a hackneyed phrase but its true; he is 'a one off' and im glad of his music in my life. i'd marry him.
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on 14 April 2013
A stunning second album follows a great first album. With less of a 'warm' sound then his debut, John Grant comes back with an electronic palette. The title track opens the album, setting a high benchmark, putting pulsating synths and beats to their most eerie use ever. Grant has no trouble maintaining the high standard - the beautiful GMF and It Doesn't Matter To Him evolve the sound of Grant's debut effectively - but it is the unfamiliar tracks that warrant special praise here. Sensitive New Age Guy and Ernest Borgnine are similarly electronic but stun in completely different ways, while Glacier's luscious balladry carries considerable emotional heft. The standout track (of an album bursting with high points) is the incredible Why Don't You Love Me Anymore, which combines a hard electronic edge with Grant's rich tenor voice and effortlessly moving melody-writing ability.

Present throughout is John Grant's trademark lyrical mix of humour and bitterness - set once again to stunning music, with much for old fans to love while developing in new directions. A must-listen, and a must-buy.
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on 17 April 2016
A very poor album from the man who would follow it with the best album of the decade so far: Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. The latter is simply magnificent, topping the heap of great albums since 2010 including Sleaford Mods' Divide and Exit, La Roux's Trouble in Paradise, Ezra Furman's Perpetual Motion, Sharon van Etten's Are We There, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Freedom Tower, Dexys' One Day I'm Going to Soar, Scott Walker's Soused, Pere Ubu's Carnival of Souls, Black Lips' Arabia Mountain, David Corley's Available Light and Go-Kart Mozart (UK version) - On the Hot Dog Streets.

Unfortunately, Pale Green Ghosts has a massive dearth of tunes and is basically Grant reading from his diary in a singing voice. Skip this one and take instead Queen of Denmark and his brilliant Grey Tickles, Black Pressure.
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