- Audio CD (11 Mar. 2013)
- Limited Edition edition
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Limited Edition
- Label: Bella Union
- ASIN: B00ANT2FHO
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 149 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,989 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Pale Green Ghosts Limited Edition
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Bella Union records are thrilled to announce the return of JOHN GRANT, who's second solo album Pale Green Ghosts will be released 15th March 2013. After a breakthrough year that saw his exceptional solo debut "Queen Of Denmark" win MOJO's album of 2010 and countless other accolades John Grant hasn't rested on his laurels but created a follow-up that underlines his uncanny and charismatic talents, Recorded in Iceland and featuring Sinead O'Connor on guest vocals, the brilliant "Pale Green Ghosts" adds sublime notes of dark, gleaming electronica to the anticipated velveteen ballads, calling on all of Grant's influences and tastes, presenting an artist at the peak of his powers.
When The Czars’ frontman John Grant went solo in 2010, the resulting album, Queen of Denmark, was extraordinary.
Laying bare his life, his struggles and heartbreak with openness and wit, the album featured Bella Union labelmates Midlake as Grant’s backing band, contributing their pastoral 1970s sound. It was a natural pairing.
The initial surprise on this follow-up is discovering that Grant’s songs work as well – if not even better – when paired with a synth-pop backing rooted more in the 1980s than the preceding decade.
The eerie, edgy title track opens the album with fierce little darts of synth paired with echoed vocals, conveying the sense of mystery and urgency of the singer’s adolescent journeys down his hometown’s “black highway”, seeking escape.
Tracks like Blackbelt and Sensitive New Age Guy positively bounce, the latter recalling a swathe of 80s bands like The Human League and Depeche Mode.
Rather than a distancing device, these synthesised sounds actually become a conduit for the stories contained in his songs. And these stories are, again, excoriating in their depth of feeling.
That adjective applies most directly to Vietnam, in which the singer compares the silent treatment meted out by his ex (the same ex who haunts most of Grant’s most intense work) to both a “nuclear bomb” and the skin-stripping “Agent Orange”.
This clear-eyed honesty and anger – in the quite brilliant GMF he describes himself as “quite angry, which I barely can conceal” – is not softened by, but paired with, a humour that can be waspish, or just plain laugh-out-loud funny.
Blackbelt is an example of the former, Grant drawling, “Yeah, you got your bored look all worked out”. He’s also a master of a judicious swear, too, as evidenced by GMF – yes, the F stands for that F-word – and I Hate This Town.
Glacier is intensely tender and moving, the closer a ballad directed at youngsters struggling with their sexuality – or, rather, with others’ reactions to it. It is likely to provide succour and comfort from one who has, demonstrably, been through that emotional mill himself.
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Top customer reviews
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.
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.
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Rich, warm and so heart felt.
Love his humour too quirky and dark with a voice that stops me in my tracks.
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