Quality offering from indie maverick.
Going backwards! Boy From Michigan floats past Pale Green Ghosts and plunges under the Queen of Denmark, back to a pre-Denver John Grant, growing up in small-town Michigan alongside a potent cast of characters. A Mӓrchen boyhood, both alluring and terrifying, is conveyed with a painter’s eye for surrealist detail. The American Dream awaits but it’s not for soft-hearted fools: simple boys from Michigan tend to be eaten alive.
The path out is perilous. On a warm, drunk summer’s night, the boy Grant takes the hand of a Lynchian mama in possession of a million-dollar smile who parades him around a Blade Runner-style ‘County Fair’. Vangelis synths and Faltermeyer beats on ‘The Rusty Bull’ find us in the back of a childhood station wagon, drifting past a 20ft eroded Cerberus, who stalks the little dude’s dreams. On the edge of town, darkness looms, evoked by the killer line – one of a preposterous horde on the album – “Bass line of our song on your cassette/ sounds like the storm clouds we see up ahead on the horizon.”
Grant, one of the great chroniclers of the underbelly of the American dream, is not so easily devoured. He calls out – perhaps to Cate le Bon in the production chair (excellent throughout) – “You bring out the best in me/ so I’ll be careful in my killing spree.” Sparks fly and ace vignettes abound on ‘Rhetorical Figures’ – “Some people like alliteration/ but I’ve always been an assonance man.” On the Nilsson-like ‘Just So You Know’, canon geeks will adore the line, “I don’t mean Dairy Queen/ I covered that on album three.” ‘The Only Baby’ howls against America: “That thing in the White House/ That’s the only baby that bitch could have.” The boy from Michigan is very much the man.