Alfred Soto: One of the best tracks from the, ah, disappointing followup to Pale Green Ghosts, one of the decade’s best singer-songwriter albums, blessed with Radio Shack keyboard presets and basso pseudo-melancholy that no one has mastered since the Leonard Cohen of I’m Your Man. Grant’s high notes are a problem — I would’ve preferred one of the vocalists with whom he shared space on 2014’s ace Hercules & Love Affair record — and the opera interpolations and Italian phrases wear out their welcome. Thanks, Tracey Thorn. Whether age or mixing board tricks are responsible for the unpleasant darkening of her voice, she nevertheless provides the unforced levity.
Iain Mew: I had read plenty about John Grant but not actually heard him prior to this semi-list song. I had no idea that between his particular deep voice and wry sophistication of sound and songwriting he would sound this much like an electro Divine Comedy. I’m not complaining though, especially because a lot of Neil Hannon’s songs would probably have benefited from Tracey Thorn taking a few lines, too.
Thomas Inskeep: Random pairings of words have been done better (Beck says hello!), and Grant’s kitschy music doesn’t help matters, especially the “shoo-bee-doo”s behind the chorus. Additionally, his voice is nails-on-chalkboard for me. At least Tracey Thorn can sing, though I’d rather she were given something worth singing.
Anthony Easton: I don’t know what to do with the electronic noise that masks Grant and Thorn’s voices — it works conceptually, and I don’t think it marks a kind of self loathing (like his previous work), but I also think it prevents clarity. Which might be part of the formal point, and might make me churlish for being slightly annoyed.
Will Adams: It’s frustrating trying to decide whether the word salad verses are meant to undermine the devotional chorus. Between the gangly disco and the vocalists’ sedated delivery, the emotion here is obscure and inaccessible.
W.B. Swygart: John Grant in non-heartbroken/terrified mode is a little unusual; without the fuck-you-up wells of sadness of, say, “Marz,” “Disappointing” comes off largely like a lust song written by someone who really, really likes the Pet Shop Boys, a lot. Which is fair enough. Points for Rachel Dratch namecheck? Ah, it’s nearly Christmas.