John Grant on Later…With Jools Holland

john-grant-pale-green-ghosts

Best television discovery of late? Without a doubt, it’s Later…with Jools Holland, a BBC2 music show that showcases 4-5 artists per show in a unique way: all bands & artists are set up in studio at the same time in a circle, with each performing a song at a time (with Jools as emcee, introducing the acts). It’s really a neat dynamic, as it’s pretty easy to tell that it raises the game for the musicians, who are not only performing for a live studio audience, but to their musician peers standing feet away.

The first Jools show I watched straight through a few weeks back featured the Stereophonics, Low, the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, Melt Yourself Down, Yasmine Hamdan, and John Grant. Two of the artists stuck out for me – the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra and John Grant. If you want a great summer album to accompany a BBQ or poolside relaxation, definitely spin Lee Thompson’s latest album, The Benevolence of Sister Mary Ignatius. Lee is the sax player and one of the founding members of Madness, so that’s an instant indicator of its ska-cool quality…

But I was really blown away by John Grant. It’s music that’s hard to describe – electronic folk, maybe? Very melodic, great harmonies and sounds, both acoustic and synthetic. It just really caught on with me.  One  of the standout tunes on his new album, Pale Green Ghosts, is “GMF”, a tune whose tender and sensitive opening instrumentation unleashes into some eye opening and interesting lyrics – especially the chorus:

But I am the greatest motherfucker
That you’re ever gonna meet
From the top of my head
Down to the tips of the toes on my feet.

So go ahead and love me while it’s still a crime,
And don’t forget you could be laughing
65 percent more of the time.
You could be laughing
65 percent more of the time.

And it’s hooky enough that you’ll be singing along by the time the chorus rolls around for the second time. There’s a lot of analysis yet to be done on this record, but it’s clear that Grant, who is openly gay, does not shy away from the subject. But it’s only one dimension of this unique album and artist. The strange opening sounds of the opener “Pale Green Ghosts” pull you right in (headphones recommended) and don’t let go until the end.

For those of you in the U.S., you can catch Jools Holland on Palladia HD network.

Check out John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts on Amazon.