Ghostpoet
I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep
Play It Again Sam

Ghostpoet is a London-based singer/songwriter who refuses to be tied down to any genre.  In fact, he is downright hostile to the idea of genres, and for that reason I refuse to assign him one.  His music is dark, like a modern-day Tricky, his vocal delivery is a mixture of the cadence of a poet and an MC, à la Kate Tempest.  Whatever it is, I find it irresistible.  His first album, Peanut Butter & Melancholy Jam was nominated for the Mercury Prize.  His third album, Shedding Skin, from 2015, was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize.

I was first introduced to him via Massive Attack, with whom he shares a sonic palette and vocal delivery, as he appeared on the b-side to their 2016 single, ‘The Spoils,’ which itself featured Hope Sandoval, on the track ‘Come Near Me.’  Since then, he has released two more albums, Dark Days + Canapes (2017) and now I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep.  There is a certain bleakness to Ghostpoet, both in terms of his music and lyrics, and there is a certain resignation in his art as well.  On the new album, well, I think the title says a lot.

Ghostpoet’s delivery is languid and drawling.  He’s in no hurry to get where he’s going, he enjoys the road there.  There is no change to that on I Grow Tired, as he explores topics ranging from immigration to the rise of the far right to race.  He is a man of our times, as he is increasingly frustrated, angry, even fearful with a hint of panic now and then.  In other words, he sounds like you or me, just hella more poetic and gifted.

His manifesto becomes clear in the title track, buried away down the track listing, at number 9 of 10:

I want peace in my heart
In my inner being
But won’t find it here
With all this constant war-mongering.

It’s hard not to agree with him.

The first single, ‘Concrete Pony’ is a catchy little number, built up from a 4/4 drum beat and a funky bassline, and this building synthesizer riff, which, come to think of it, may be a siren, and his lyrics, deeply claustrophobic, laid-back and he feels like he’s ten feet behind me, shimmering up on that beat.  As an aside, Ghostpoet on headphones is like having him playing in your living room:

Why ain’t my jacket like yours
Oh yeah oh yeah
Desperate I’m needing applause
Oh yeah oh yeah
How can I measure my life
Oh yeah oh yeah
Emails and digital likes
Oh yeah oh yeah
Kiss me but nothing feels real
Oh yeah oh yeah
Hit me I wanna just feel
Oh yeah oh yeah
Dreams from a satellite beam
Oh yeah oh yeah
No hope you might as well scream
Oh no, oh no
There is nothing.

‘Rats in a Sack’ is a direct response to the rise of the likes of Boris Johnson and the heartless polices of Conservative governments going back to David Cameron (not that I think Ghost would be all that keen on Gordon Brown or Tony Blair). Over a creeping bass and insistent thud of a snare drum, he sings:

Britain’s on a mission
Humans in a daze
Far right on the jukebox
High vision, bright as day
Sorry love, but you’re all alone
Snuff hole turns cold
Seat warmth in these bitter days
Peach schnapps on the phone
Shopdustries taking liberties
Skinning teeth for the ’gram
Are they closed for brunch bowls?
Start bustin’ with the lamb
Eyes navigate the coastline
Some folks welling up
Confused by these pretty things
Yes we just fucked it up
They were screaming…
Let’s get out
Out means out, means out, means out, means out, means out
They were screaming
Just get out
Out means out, means out, means out, means out, means out.

We are in this bizarre place historically, in the midst of a pandemic that feels like it jumped out of our history books, the far right is in control in the United States and the United Kingdom.  Climate change is real and happening now (last week it snowed here in New England.  It was then 15C the next day).  The left is paralyzed with its own idiocy, attacking itself over and over and eating its young.  The economy is crashing in a manner that may leave the Depression looking like it was a good time.  Racism is all the more prevalent and vile now than it has been at any point in my life, to say nothing of xenophobia.  Ghostpoet is the poet laureate of our times.