John Grant Returns to Colorado With His Humorously Dark Opus Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

John Grant will make an appearance at the Fox Theatre this Saturday, October 24, in support of his latest album, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Some may know Grant from his time in Denver-based dream pop legends the Czars, where his strikingly powerful and richly evocative voice greatly enhanced the atmospheric depths of the band's sound. When the Czars split in 2006, Grant moved out of Denver and ultimately ended up in Iceland, where he lives today. Returning to music in 2010, Grant released his first solo album, Queen of Denmark, to great critical acclaim. In 2013, Grant's second album, Pale Green Ghosts, was named 2013 Album of the Year by Rough Trade, and on that album there was a more extensive use of electronic elements thanks in part to the collaboration with Birgir Þórarinsson of Icelandic band Gus Gus.

Grey Tickles, Black Pressure more fully incorporates the electronic compositions into Grant's songwriting. But Grant has long been interested in electronic music, going back to growing up listening to Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode, Yello, New Order and Skinny Puppy. He also wanted to make electronic music that fit his own style, rather than an imitate the sound of his musical heroes. Beyond succeeding in this, Grant has also given us a record that has something to say. The album is a beautifully atmospheric piece of work that playfully and thoughtfully explores the nature of love and how Grant has experienced its various forms across his lifetime thus far. There is the dark humor that has always been hinted at in Grant's career, but especially poignant this time around. What gives these stories a fascinating conceptual framework is the use of the intro and outro tracks as a kind of framing device with the intro spoken in adult voices and the outro in the voice of a child – both reciting 1 Corinthians 13. 

“I grew up in a very religious surrounding, so I heard that verse my whole life,” says Grant. “Since the album itself is very much about love, basically it's an observation about how I experienced love on planet Earth. Just one tiny little anthropological study or observation of how things have been for me juxtaposed with what I was constantly hearing and told what love was supposed to be when I was growing up. So at the beginning there's all these adult voices telling you how love should be. Then there's twelve tracks that sound like exactly the opposite, for the most part. There's a few bright spots in there. Lots of dark humor. Then at the end you have the child saying that part.

“After you hear the whole world screaming at you, 'This love is supposed to be!' in this chaos of tape delay and different languages. You have the twelve songs of mostly my experiences. I thought it would be cool to hear the child, because the child is the only one that you can really take seriously saying those words because a child hasn't yet been fucked up by the world and doesn't even really know what those words mean and hasn't learned how to be jealous yet necessarily or obsessive or vindictive or heartbroken or all of those things. I just thought it was a good contrast.”

Catch John Grant and his golden voice this Saturday, October 24 at The Fox Theatre in Boulder with Bright Light Bright Light. Doors open at 8:30 and the show is at 9 p.m.. Tickets are $17 in advance and $20 on the day of the show. It is 21+ event. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit The Fox Theatre's website.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.