Although co-founded by John Grant and Chris Pearson, the Czars were always Grant’s band, with most of the group’s acclaim stemming from his deep, resonant vocals and songwriting. The frontman reportedly butted heads with his four bandmates, but such creative tension helped mold the Czars into an eclectic group, and Grant’s voice -- despite being the cornerstone of every Czars album -- wouldn’t have shined as brightly without the dreamy, shoegazing music that flanked it. Queen of Denmark, his first release without the Czars, lacks that creative tension. Although recorded with Midlake (the band even shares billing in the album’s title), it feels more like a solo release, lacking both the cohesion of a proper lineup and the checks-and-balances system that Grant’s former bandmates provided. Left to his own devices, he unknowingly dilutes his strengths, whether he’s trading poetry for campy lyrics (“I wish I had the brain of a Tyrannosaurus Rex so I wouldn’t have to deal with all this crap”) or aiming for a contemporary version of ‘70s soft rock and coming up with mundane Americana instead. There’s no hiding the fact that Grant is a seriously talented vocalist, and the album’s best moments occur whenever he tones down the camp and, with a mix of Eddie Vedder’s baritone and Tim Buckley’s vibrato, reaches for the heartstrings instead. But with song titles like “Sigourney Weaver” and “Jesus Hates Faggots,” Queen of Denmark is more concerned with Grant’s cynicism.
Queen of Denmark Review
by Andrew Leahey