John Grant – The Art Of The Lie

An eclectic, ambitious, and vital return from a one-off talent...

It’s rather fitting that John Grant’s sixth studio effort draws upon many of the varying musical strands littered across his discography. After the exquisite, heartbreaking piano confessionals on his debut ‘Queen of Denmark’, few would have predicted such a seamless pivot into spectral electronica, luxurious funk and in the case of 2018’s ‘The Only Baby’, a staggering, expansive ten-minute piece dedicated to the evisceration of Donald Trump. With ‘The Art Of The Lie’, it appears Grant has seemingly taken all these elements and developed them even further. The results are spectacular.

‘Mother And Son’ and recent release ‘The Child Catcher’ open like horror soundtracks beamed directly from the abyss, however both branch off in vastly different directions during their respective seven-minute runtimes. The latter closes amongst a thrillingly cacophonous collage of warped guitar notes and hellish feedback. ‘Mother And Son’ morphs into something much subtler and affecting. Grant’s vocals – luscious and graceful as ever – are set against a gentle wash of a backdrop before it beautifully glides to its natural conclusion. Meanwhile, the menacing rhythms of ‘Marbles’ that envelop the soundstage are contrasted superbly by the serenity of its marvellous chorus.

While the ‘The Art Of The Lie’ is home to some of Grant’s most complex and multi-layered compositions, it also indulges in a wonderfully loose playfulness that was, understandably, somewhat absent on his previous record ‘Boy From Michigan’. Strutting opener ‘All That School For Nothing’ piles layer upon layer of modulated vocals and delicious synth sounds together to remarkable effect. Similarly, it’s not difficult to see why ‘It’s a Bitch’ was selected as lead single; an obscenely hooky slice of weapons grade funk that’s the culmination of the songwriter’s foray into the genre over the past decade. Also, exactly how many artists can you name that would even dare to reference Robotron, the medulla oblongata and Bela Lugosi in the same song?

As the record begins to unfold, there’s an underlying feeling that it’s serving as a companion piece to the aforementioned ‘Boy From Michigan’. There are epic, grand arrangements, a leaning towards the avant-garde and more allusions to Trump, but like many of the songs here, it slowly shifts into something quite different. Instead, Grant has refined his formula, discarding some of the less palatable aspects from his previous two outings. The changes are a welcome improvement, even if closing pair ‘Laura Lou’ and ‘Zeitgeist’ aren’t quite as impactful as what precede them.

Ultimately, ‘The Art of The Lie’ is a perfect distillation of everything one yearns for in John Grant’s music; his golden baritone voice, icy electronic soundscapes, emotive balladry, sumptuous funk and phenomenal diction all remain intact on yet another fabulous album.

8/10

Words: Luke Winstanley

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