Frailty and Heartbeat in the Ballads of John Grant

John Grant has already recorded five discs. He released the last titled “Boy From Michigan” last year and is currently on tour, with which he will stop at the MeetFactory club in Prague on Monday, March 28. Although his sound has changed a lot over the years, you can find sensitive ballads on all his albums. We have chosen the best of each.


“Queen Of Denmark” is probably the richest in slow songs. It was released in 2010 as his first solo collection, four years after he recorded an album with The Czars, after which the band called it quits. Open now “Queens of Denmark” can completely disarm a more sensitive listener. In “TC & Honeybear”, the author describes a seemingly perfect romantic relationship with the upbeat guitar accompaniment. However, as we learn in the second part of the song, where flutes and piano play a first, a couple “the world has fallen with all its fury”. That six-month relationship, which Grant himself had in the 1990s, was so strong for him that it reminds him of many of his songs, and “TC & Honeybear” graces his setlists to this day. Also recall the hit film “Weekend”, at the end of which it will also be heard.


John Grant describes 2011 as a very dark time – he contracted HIV. That’s probably why his second line-up “Pale Green Ghosts” often sounds so dark. The songs are around five or six minutes long and are laced with a dose of cool electronica. Whether the musician sings about their broken heart in them or uses them to come to terms with a new diagnosis, it always means a very powerful experience for listeners. Of the collection of eleven songs, however, one stands out a lot. In the final ballad, “Glacier”, Grant sat down at the piano and, accompanied by strings, recorded a tune he longed to hear as a teenager. He describes the misery he often faces in society as a homosexual. He compares the pain he suffers to glaciers. The magic of this song is that it can be both sad and hopeful at the same time, it just depends on the point of view. Because if the glacier leaves indelible traces as it moves, it can also create remarkable and magnificent landscapes.


“Here Below” and “Global Warming”

Experimented with the third album “Gray Tickles, Black Pressure”. John wanted to look more sullen this time around and wanted to let his anger out, which often resulted in some really crazy turns. Especially since softer pieces stand out from this collection, for which, fortunately, he has not lost the meaning. But picking an imaginary winner isn’t that easy, so “Down Here” and “Global Warming” tie up the top spot. Although the first mentioned with the text “Because what we have here are oceans of desires, guessing games and no guarantees.” It may sound like a ballad about love, the video reveals it’s more about how often people chase what they may never get or how they care about prejudice others. This is despite the fact that our limited time on earth will end the same for all of us. IN “Global warming” the musician sighed at the silly layering of people. In the accompanying clip, he shows us his vision after the apocalypse.


The fourth series “Love Is Magic” from October 2018 is probably the furthest from all of John’s discography for the average listener. Some songs really border on the alternative and the themes they contain, to put it mildly, surprise you. Even “Tempest” is not a classic ballad. The inspiration for her was the game of the same name on the Atari slot machine, in which the triangular spaceship has the task of destroying surrounding enemies and avoiding asteroids. It was the slot machine with this game that often kept the singer in his past youth without the company of friends. The atmospheric song, at the end of which the arcade sounds of fights ring out instead of sing, is one of his favorites.


Last year’s recording of “Boy From Michigan” is described by John Grant as his most personal and, compared to the previous one, it brings soothing sound level. You will also find there “Michigan Trilogy”where the author evokes his childhood. These are the first three songs – title, “County Fair” and “The Rusty Bull”. The third introduces us to twelve-year-old John, who moved with his parents to Parker, Colorado. He and his father helped find car parts in a junkyard, guarded by a rusty bull statue. In the electronic ballad, he uses this metal sculpture as a symbol of his then-developing homosexuality. It was in his dreams that his orientation terrified him and caused him nightmares. Now of course “Rusty Bull” shows the exceptional talent of the musician in all its beauty.

John Grant will perform on Monday March 28, 2022 in Prague at MeetFactory. Slovak musician Katarína Máliková will precede him. Tickets are available here.

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