John Grant – ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’

Colorado songwriter mixes obscenity and emotional heft with huge pop melodies

‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’, the third album from John Grant, is ridiculous in the very best sense of the word. It’s ridiculous in its genre-hopping musical scope, in the savagely barbed humour of the lyrics and, above all, in the remarkable strength of the songwriting that underlies it all.

The Colorado songwriter and former Czars man’s first line – “I did not think I was the one being addressed/In haemorrhoid commercials on the TV set” – sets a brilliantly ludicrous tone. And things only get weirder. The title track is a bleakly moving piano ballad, like Elton John with Ariel Pink’s tar-black sense of humour; ‘Snug Slacks’ is a facetious tale of seduction set to louche electronic beats and ‘Guess How I Know’ is a punky kiss-off to an ex. And these are just the first three songs. Over the next nine we come across taut ‘80s funk on ‘Voodoo Doll’, electropop with a world-eating chorus on ‘Disappointing’ (which features Tracey Thorn) and orchestral grandeur on the gorgeous ‘Geraldine’, all brilliantly realised.

It could be a mess. And yet this indecent mish-mash is pinned together by Grant’s knack for mixing the obscene with the profound, pointed insults with moments of emotional heft, and huge pop melodies with weird electronic experiments, all delivered in his warm baritone hug of a voice. ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ is moving, funny, unnerving and angry; one of the albums of the year.