The Czars


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The Czars' reflective, sometimes jazz-tinged alternative pop/rock is a lot like a day that is overcast without being flat-out rainy; some rays of sunlight manage to break through the clouds, but the clouds still dominate the sky. And the Czars' work isn't growing any less melancholy on Goodbye, the Denver band's third full-length album. This 2004 release isn't an exercise in total hopelessness; Czars frontman John Grant is diligently searching for reasons to be optimistic, but unfortunately, he isn't finding them. What Grant does find is a certain beauty in that mostly cloudy forecast -- a melancholy sort of beauty, but beauty nonetheless. The sort of bittersweet beauty you might find in, say, a relatively good forecast for London in the middle of December or January. No one who visits the U.K. during the dead of winter expects an abundance of 80-degree days with consistently bright sunshine; similarly, no one expects a Czars album to be an exercise in feel-good escapism. But if you find yourself in London during the winter and are able to enjoy a rain-free day -- even if the sky has more clouds than sun -- there can be a certain melancholy beauty at work. And that's what Goodbye feels like; this isn't a cheerful album by any means, but it certainly isn't ugly music either. A talented alternative pop/rock/adult alternative craftsman, the world-weary Grant has no problem finding something poetic in all the disappointments, remorse, and cynicism he expresses. One thing that Goodbye and other Czars albums lacks is immediacy; their work is subtle and understated, not obvious. But for those who don't insist on immediate gratification, Goodbye can be a rewarding illustration of the group's bittersweet artistry.

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