Boy From Michigan

Jul 13, 2021
Web Exclusive

By Scott Dransfield


God bless “Rhetorical Figure.” Arriving a little over halfway through John Grant’s new album Boy From Michigan, the song is unique, intelligent, bouncy, and deeply silly. It’s a familiar mode for Grant, whose past tracks include similar jaunts like “He’s Got His Mother’s Hips” and “Snug Slacks.” But “Rhetorical Figure” is unique and important in its context. The vast majority of the mammoth Boy From Michigan—a 75-minute album, by the way—is made up of slow ballads, even dirges at times. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes it difficult to listen to in one sitting.

Boy From Michigan opens with its title track, a moody, nostalgic psychedelic ballad that introduces the album’s theme: all over the rest of the tracklist, Grant calls back to the people and places in his memory that have proved meaningful. “County Fair” literally recounts the wonder and emotion of times at the county fair with friends or family. “Mike and Julie” calls out to friends of Grant’s when teenagers, to express regret for mistakes made. Closer “Billy” is a simple piano ballad that mourns the pressures of masculinity that can push men apart.

At the same time, Boy From Michigan also contains some of Grant’s most dour songs of his career. “The Rusty Bull” and “Your Portfolio” have vivid and entertaining imagery, but are pitch-black in tone. Double so for “The Only Baby,” the bitterest fuck-you to America that I’ve heard in a long while. Those three tracks alone comprise almost 24 of the album’s 75 minutes, tempting one occasionally to the skip button. But these are smallish gripes. I freely laud John Grant for doing easily, on this album, his best songwriting yet. It just may not be an album for beginners, or for those not patient enough to enjoy its subtle rewards. (www.johngrantmusic.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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