John Grant - With the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra: Live in Concert
“I usually introduce this one by saying that, quite simply, it’s a song about how the United States is not a theocracy.” Dictionary? Over there on the bookshelf. Right, so that’s that cleared up. This intro to the wonderful ‘Glacier’ tells you about the kind of artist John Grant is: bloody minded, gifted and ever so slightly unusual. The most straightforward thing about this album is its title. It does what it says on the tin.
Covering both his solo albums to date, this double disc set showcases Grant’s supreme gift for writing beautiful music that almost always includes lyrics that hit you squarely in the stomach. ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Him’, ‘Vietnam’ (“Your silence is a weapon / It's like a nuclear bomb / It's like the Agent Orange / They used to use in Vietnam”), the harsh self critique ‘GMF’ (“I'm usually only waiting for you to stop talking so that I can / Concerning two-way streets, I have to say that I am not a fan”). The orchestral presentation is sometimes sublime (the stunning intro and horn section on 'Pale Green Ghosts') and adds depth to tunes like 'Marz' and 'Sigourney Weaver', but elsewhere the impact is negligible. And despite Grant himself being in fantastic voice most of his usual banter is absent; as a great raconteur this is a huge miss. With the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra... isn't quite the triumph it could have been, but it might be the best live album of 2014.