Label: Bella Union
Released: 25th June 2021
You never know what you’re going to get with a John Grant record, his previous work veering wildly between piano ballads and full-on electronic nonsense of the highest order. On ‘Boy From Michigan’, his fifth solo effort, he welds together both instincts in an ambitious record that could have done with some much harsher pruning. You want ten-minute songs about the evils of colonialism and Trump’s America? Step right this way!
From the opening seconds, the title track swirling into appearance through the icy electronic gloom of a Blade Runner-esque soundtrack, we are firmly invited to have a rummage through Grant’s memory drawers. There’s an air of melancholy and romance over some of the earlier tracks, ‘County Fair’ and ‘Rusty Bull’ in particular being notably plucked from specific places and times. Even for someone who it often feels like has drawn his songs from a diary, these are hugely personal.
Though there’s lots to chew on here, where the record falls down is in its sheer length – both in its entirety and over a string of patience-testing tracks. There’s always been a hint of well-earned self-indulgence in his previous work, but here it sees Grant’s trademark biting humour flail and eventually sink in some of the mass on display here. When he leans fully into the nonsense of the wild ‘’Rhetorical Figure’ or the sleazy-assed synths of ‘Your Portfolio’ then it works a treat. For a record that dissects the American Dream, perhaps its fitting then that it ultimately becomes too grandiose for its own good, reaching out too far and falling over itself.