Grant Hart’s music career has been so sporadic over the last couple of decades, I’d almost given up on him producing a consistently great piece of work ever again.
And, being honest, a double concept LP didn’t seem the most promising route to deliver that. Yet, defying expectations ‘The Argument’, released last month on Domino Records, is not only a double concept LP but may also prove to be Grant’s most enduring solo record.
Certainly Domino seem to have faith in the record. There’s been an unprecedented level of promotion for a Grant album. So could ‘The Argument’ finally be the record to demonstrate that Grant’s best years aren’t two decades in the past?
Some background first. ‘The Argument’ is, as trailed, based on Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. But it also draws on an unpublished manuscript by William S Burroughs. The end result is the sort of bonkers epic that we’ve seen from Grant before with ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’.
And that’s not a bad precedent as ‘Pompeii’ is one of Grant’s strongest post Hüsker Dü efforts. The good news is that ‘The Argument’ is every bit as strong musically as ‘Pompeii’ was.
In addition, ‘The Argument’ is a staggeringly diverse collection. Like ‘Pompeii’ there’s an avant garde element to some of the songs particularly on the rhythmic post rock track ‘War In Heaven’ which is almost reminiscent of Fuck Buttons.
But this impressive album also seems to be Grant’s attempt to cover the Great American songbook ranging from a 20s style ragtime song ‘Underneath The Apple Tree’ to more traditional Grant style alt.rock of ‘Morning Star’.
It’s the points in between that give the record its character. There’s the slinky torch ballad ‘Sin’, the Everly Brothers rock’n’roll of ‘Letting Me Out’ and even the portentous 70s prog epic of the title track.
Best of the lot though is probably ‘Is The Sky The Limit?’ a plaintive ballad in the tradition of the likes of ‘The Main’.
To be honest, at 20 tracks, there’s a lot to digest even after a number of plays and I’m still discovering new things about the songs with every listen.
So, at this stage I’m not 100% certain just how good ‘The Argument’ truly is. But I’d stake the shirt on my back that it will be up in my Top 5 LPs of 2013. At the very least.
Photo by Shawn Brackbill