“A band of musical misfits who have found a voice or two,” says Wrangler’s Ben “Benge” Edwards, whose Bond villain studio on the edge of a moorland is Creep Show Grand Central as well as home to an analogue synth arsenal that could sink ships.
Wrangler have known each other for a while. Tunng’s electronics wizard Phil Winter and Cabaret Voltaire’s trailblazing, pioneering frontman Stephen Mallinder go way back. They met through a mutual friend, Rob Collins, who worked at Some Bizzare when The Cabs were on the roster. “I knew Rob from school,” says Phil, “And I obviously liked Cabaret Voltaire before I met Mal so it just sort of lead on from that.”
Phil and Benge crossed paths in the 21st century when they seemed to be increasingly in the same venues at the same times - Benge gigging, Phil DJing. They got talking and it seemed like a good idea to work together. Meanwhile, Mal had been living in Australia since the mid-90s and when, in 2007, he returned to the UK to undertake some academic endeavor his old pal Phil suggested he meet Benge. “I thought I was coming for a cup of tea and to say hello, but within an hour we’d written ‘Sequence On’,” says Mal.
has established himself as one of the great musical chroniclers of the American Dream, angled mostly from its flip side - from those who did not thrive. Grant stopped being a boy in Michigan at 12, when he moved to Denver, shifting rust to bible belt, a further vantage point to watch collective dreams unravel. “I quickly learned all about the American caste system and where I fit in. Or didn’t.”
A John Grant album always feels like vignettes divined from a tart book of poetry. Boy from Michigan is the author’s shaggy-dog story, a novelistic approach where songs are more like chapters in a leatherbound book bought from a favorite thrift store. “I guess I’m just thinking about where I came from,” he notes, “and what I went into.”
With Cate Le Bon in the production chair, Grant has pared back his zingers, maximizing the emotional impact of the melodies, stripping the noise of vaudeville and mood-enhancing a fruitful, spare, strangely orchestrated new world for him to live in.