John Grant has never made a secret of his turbulent mental health problems which were exacerbated by years of drug dependency. In combatting these he noted that "the trick is to find something that allows you to stay sensitive", in a recent Guardian interview.
The break-up of his first band The Czars led him to abandon music for five years but his solo albums feel like a vital part of his coping mechanisms. Although escaping the madness of modern America for the relative calm of Reykjavik has helped, the personality traits of melancholy and anxiety remain contained but not completely cured. This is evident in the opening track, Metamorphosis, a manic bipolar show tune in which fried brain imagery blends with dreamy-ballad introspection.
Born in Michigan in 1968, Grant released his debut solo album 'Queen Of Denmark' in 2010. 'Love Is Magic' is his fourth solo album and he notes “The more I do this, the more I trust myself, and the closer I get to making what I imagine in my head”.
It was made in collaboration with Midlake bassist Paul Alexander and Benge (Ben Edwards) a member of electronic trio Wrangler. The squelchy synth-pop arrangements can be irritating although they do have the required effect of camping up the otherwise oppressive or vengeful mood.
The vitriolic Smug Cunt plainly has Donald Trump in his sights while the disco fodder of He's Got His Mother's Hips is one of several Frank Zappa meets Depeche Mode moments.
The title track, Love Is Magic, takes us on an emotional roller-coaster ride in which lack of control is part of the deal. The closing track, Touch And Go is a touchingly tender and empathic song about transsexual whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
Elsewhere, menacing lyrics poop the uninhibited party atmosphere. In Tempest he sings "I hear the doors of institutions opening and slamming shut" and in Diet Gum he owns up to the dark side of loving relationships ("I manipulate; that is what I do").
The cover shot shows John Grant in his underpants with his head in a birdcage. It is a portrait of an artist who wears his fears and vulnerabilities on his fluffy sleeves.
Thankfully, no amount of medication will make him conventionally sane. The world would be a poorer place without his unique brand of madness.