John Grant‘s Queen Of Denmark album is a slow-burning beauty of a record. It’ll appear on every hipster’s Best Of 2010 list, yet I doubt it did so much as graze the outer reaches of the stalest charts since I don’t know when. All the hippest of hipsters like to keep these things to themselves, y’see, so they can say “told you so” when the time is perceived to be right. Queen Of Denmark is melancholic, melodic, Midlake-mentored and as richly produced as anything from the Golden Year of 1973 (right up there with Band On The Run, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, For Your Pleasure) It’s good, so it is. You’d like it.
Before flying solo, John Grant was leader of The Czars. Much like the album mentioned above, The Czars flew under almost everyone’s radar, save a few canny folk with one ear stuck to the ground and a finger lodged in their other ear in an attempt to keep out the cor blimey mockneyisms and northern infleccheeeoooons of the lad rock that wafted out of every butchers, bakers and candlestick makers up and down the country. There are many bands you could argue were born at the wrong time (hello Trashcan Sinatras), but The Czars, with 6 albums, 3 singles and an EP released to general indifference throughout the mid 90s and early 00′s can stake a claim to that unlucky title. I’d like to be able to tell you I was one of the few with that ear to the ground in 1994, but even though I’d heard of them when a local band supported them around 1997, I didn’t get on board (there were plenty of seats left mind) until 2001′s The Ugly People Vs. the Beautiful People.
Starting with the eerie melancholy of the aptly-named ‘Drug’, The Ugly People…album smacked me (ouch) between the eyes in a way I’d never been hit (oof) since Elliott Smith’s XO masterpiece. I got my fix (stop!) by playing the album daily, like some sort of deathly ritual until I was absolutely sick fed up of it. S’a great album n all that, but I only began playing it again recently after I’d heard Queen Of Denmark. More fool me.
From this point on, I went on a bit of a Czars bender. I went back and started at the beginning of their recorded output (Moodswing), where Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde came on board. He signed them to his label, produced them and carried out some A&R, encouraging them to cover Song To The Siren along the way. With no real commercial success (and precious little critical acclaim) The Czars split up to no great fanfare in 2004. Strange to think that in 3 years, I’d heard and processed their entire catalogue. Processed? Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals says that he heard the Velvet Underground so much when he was younger that he never needs to listen to them again, that their music is stored in the human iPod, the myPod if you may, that is the human brain. I’m a bit like that with many bands, The Czars included.
And now I’m discovering them all over again, thanks to John Grant releasing Queen Of Denmark.