In 2007, a man named Paul Karason became famous in the way people became famous in those pre-social media days: He appeared on tabloid TV shows and everyone emailed each other links to tell his story. See, Karason, through an ill-advised tincture of his own devising, had given himself argyria, a condition where the sufferer’s skin turns a blue-ish tint, thanks to the ingestion of silver. Karason contended that taking silver as a supplement had cured a variety of sinus and throat ailments, and he did live six more years taking silver before apparently unrelated causes killed him. But the thing you have to know about Karason is that he looked exactly like Papa Smurf; he looked as different as a human being can, and not just in the “I think I look unique” way we all feel when we look in the mirror, but actually different. He might as well have been a different species; an alien who came to Maury to tell us about the benefits of silver consumption.
Karason’s condition inspired Silver Eater, the left-field, quirky, alt-pop debut from London’s Grace Lightman, a distinct talent who’s hell bent on splitting the difference between Diana Ross’ disco-era albums and David Lynch. Lightman uses Karason’s argyria as the inspiration to spin a tale across Silver Eater that concerns a silver devouring alien coming to earth, who spends the course of the album trying to live an ordinary life, avoid capture from NASA, and find an opportunity to fit in. But that story is really inside of all of us; we all feel a little bit like an alien from time to time, and want to find a place to belong.
Silver Eater opens with the elastic and buoyant “Repair Repair,” a jingle for a fictional energy drink, that explodes into an interstellar space trip disco that sounds like it was written and recorded inside a Tron machine. The title track follows, and slows things down to an epic ballad. The first two tracks set the two moods of Silver Eater writ large: crystal palace Neverending Story torch songs, and glittery disco raveups. In between those modes, Lightman covers topics like fighting for normalcy (“Ordinary Life”), end-of-the-road desperation (“Get Me Out Of Here”), and trying to stay strong despite adversity (“Exoskeleton”). There’s also time for an instrumental freakout that should come with glowsticks and a little cocaine (“Deep Space Getaway”).
Lightman’s strength is that the story never becomes unnecessary lattice work to make the album cohesive; you can pull lessons out of any of these songs without having to worry about whether or not NASA would be a benevolent institution should an alien crash land here. Silver Eater is a warped, delightful, and rewarding album, from an artist who arrives fully formed, and whose debut lays out a myriad of directions she could go next. Lightman is one to watch.