Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

The Art Of The Lie is a rich and satisfying return from John Grant

"The Art Of The Lie"

Release date: 14 June 2024
John Grant The Art Of The Lie cover
12 June 2024, 09:00 Written by Chris Todd

Now we’re six albums deep into the solo career of John Grant there are several things we now come to expect.

Firstly, he has an almost Madonna-esque knack for choosing the right collaborators with each album, ones that bring something new sonically, but keep the focus on Grant’s artistry, be it the pastoral folk of Midlake on debut Queen of Denmark, the squelching electronica of GusGus (Pale Green Ghosts – 2013) and in a move that created his best album thus far, enlisting Cate Le Bon for 2021’s Boy From Michigan.

The second thing is through his diaristic approach to lyricism which at times feels voyeuristic as a listener, there are several John Grants on display per album, either sad, fun and horny, or angrily despairing but with a viciously humorous slant, these all jostle for top spot with each album.

On The Art Of The Lie he’s firmly in the camp of sad, and as one of the best exponents of a desolate modern-day torch song, this results in the level of quality now expected with a John Grant release. And alongside production from Ivor Guest, a close collaborator of Grace Jones, and Dave Okumu on guitar, we have one of Grant’s richest & most satisfying sounding albums thus far.

Musing on the state of the world in 2024, particularly in America, the album title references convicted felon and failed US President Donald Trump’s ‘book’, The Art Of The Deal which implied he is a gift from God, brought to Earth to help US Citizens (only those who agree with him) to become rich. The album is peppered with references to Trump, Maga and the troubling rise of the right and continues a theme Grant has touched on numerous times before with Trump taking a battering on the savage "The Only Baby", a highlight from The Boy from Michigan and "Metamorphosis" (2018’s Love Is Magic).

There is the usual smattering of funk-pop, "All that School for Nothing" and the synth stab heavy "It’s a Bitch" both lie firmly in tongue-in-cheek upbeat pop but are deceptively brutal. This from the former, “I lost my patience several hours ago / Around the time I was in utero” and “I was luxuriating on the davenport/flagellating myself like it was some kind of sport” from the latter displays Grant’s vividly pithy approach to songwriting. These tracks speak to the criticism that Grant has a predisposition for being overly sombre, but as with all his other releases, this is where the real juice is, and is where the album flies.

The melancholy ecstasy of the post-rocky seven-minute epic "Marbles" has Grant casually sharing how he “The poise of a newborn giraffe / My moods are quite clearly unchoreographed” over a jittery backdrop which crashes into a percussive outro of tribal drums, phased synth-work and smatters of discordant post-punk guitars.

The adult aftereffects of repressed childhood trauma are visited on a suite of songs which deal with parenthood, "Father", "Mother and Son", and "Daddy". The former, the most affecting of the three is a sparse piece of electronica that places a vocodered Grant front and centre as he displays the raw sadness of losing a parent, reminiscing of his boyhood in the seventies in evocative detail, picturing the brother listening to the beach boys in his room, the staircase he used to sit on, the now empty rooms of a family home pondering “We walk into those rooms where we once laughed and played / It’s all empty now but it feels like it was yesterday”, in a typically Grantian twist, the latter half bitterly dissects an entire life given to one big lie in a swooping attack on organised religion, it’s showstopping stuff.

Elsewhere, "The Childcatcher" crosses Harry Nillson with a 70s Beach Boys at their cokeiest, while the mother/son bond is questioned over swathes of dreamy Vangelis-influenced synth work on "Mother and Son".

A more leftfield approach is taken on The Art Of The Lie, a likely continuation of Grant’s excellent collaboration with ex-Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder under the Creepshow guise from last year. Here, as on that album Grant embraces his love of eighties IBM/EBM music and kitchen sink gothery from the likes of Soft Cell, alongside the end-of-the-world electronica of Throbbing Gristle, all delivered in the form of yet another excellent John Grant release.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next