John Grant has been a busy boy. Since leaving The Czars and forging a career with two critically acclaimed solo albums (the largely acoustic Queen of Denmark and the largely electro Pale Green Ghosts) he’s also fronted a sizeable selection of tracks on the last Hercules and Love Affair record. Now he’s swanning around throwing lavish live shows with huge backing orchestras. As he tours the UK this week, this recording from the BBC serves as a snapshot reminder, and is perfectly timed for this festive season of cash-ins. Instead of shamelessly shoving out a deluxe edition or Best Of, wrapped in offcuts and b-sides, he instead puts out this live album which is a creative and beautiful selection of reworkings. If you’re a fan, it’s an essential companion piece to his studio recordings, and if you’re a new comer, it’s the perfect overview and dramatic introduction to his world.
Thanks to the arrangements by his long-time collaborator Fiona Brice (known for her work with Placebo), the songs are given a full blown, cinematic edge. Glacier does a brilliant job of a beefed up piano ballad. It gradually builds to an epic proggy guitar solo, reminiscent of some of Pulp’s This Is Hardcore, but Grant pushes the boundaries far harder than they did. He’s an expert in mixing cult references with his observations of emotionally challenging relationships, nowhere better than on Sigourney Weaver, the perfect vehicle for his rich voice. Elsewhere the orchestration takes on a Disney grandeur with the creepy villain entrance of Pale Green Ghost, just before the icy 80s Knight Rider synth part comes in and the finale of Queen of Denmark takes on the masters Queen for glorious overblown glamrock pomp.
This is absolutely a wallow at home with a bottle of whiskey album, a heightened Best Of John Grant with the melodrama cranked up to ten. If you can hold out through most of the sixteen live tracks, by the time Drug rolls around as the penultimate song, you’ll be ground down and vulnerable. If you don’t cry or at least have an involuntary twitch in your tear glands, you’re not human.
Bob Henderson AKA @bobchicalors
Maxell Music Monday Competition
As part of our Music Monday’s, we want to give you a pair of fantastic M by Maxell in-ear headphones, as well as a copy of John Grant’s album. To enter the competition, just follow these steps.
Step One – Check out the M by Maxell website and find the three M by Maxell in-ear headphones, then choose your favourite model.
Step Two – Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us which model is your favourite, your name and your postal address.
Step Three – Sit back, relax and wait for us to pull your name out of the tombola. The competition is open until December 8th, and we’ll let the winner know by December 26th.