My first time listening to John Grant. I always figured this would be some warm, traditional singer/songwriter or folk album. I think I based that entirely on his beard.
This is something else, though. There is a strong singer/songwriter element to it sure, but it is mixed with... Whatever strikes his fancy so it seems. One thing it isn't, is warm. His voice would actually easily be capable of comfort, but he decides not to, at least not on this album. There is a sense of sneering, of arrogance and of not letting anything get to you. John Grant is building a wall around him; a wall of irony. He is very aware of the superior stance he takes and mocks this, but it still remains superior.
Everything from that last paragraph I can apply to Father John Misty and I'm not the first to note a connection here. Musically they are different, but the effect remains the same. John Grant (on this album) and John Misty both pull me in and put me off. There is only a certain amount of ironic deflection of life and other people I can take. After a while I want to say: "Enough with the superior jokes, what makes you so special?". As said, Grant and Misty both know they can come off as assholes, but even this self-awareness can't quite help set off some real nastiness. The thing is that I like such a mode every once in a while and both make great songs I love, but an album of such a thing is just too much, especially a longer album of an hour. After 57 minutes I want to draw out John Grant, to let him reveal himself really and be sincere for a minute.
Still, this is musically adventurous and every time I think I've had enough he comes up with a song that gets me. Three songs stand out specifically, the painful title track, Global Warning and Magma Arrives. The least successful are the full-on electronic tracks. It's not just that they feel out of place, but also that they simply aren't that remarkable on themselves.