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on 28 December 2001
First, this is actually The Czars fourth album, although only the two most recent have made it across the pond for distribution in Europe. Second, unlike the previous review, this is the most accomplished album and has the most in depth songwriting of any of their four albums. It is the first album with the two guitar, five member line-up, and some of guitarist Roger Green's songs are the best - 'Lullaby 6000', 'Killjoy', and 'Roger's Song'. He also provides the extra layers of sound and texture. If you've seen them live, you know what I mean - Roger has 20+ guitar pedals. Not to discount the most recognizable part of the band, John Grant, whose voice and songwriting are stronger than ever. Earlier acoustic versions of 'Drug' and 'Lullaby 6000' appeared on a limited edition 3-inch mini CD from the now-defunct Absalom Recordings out of Toronto, but these versions are even better with Roger's lilting acoustic guitar and Tarnation's Paula Frazer on backing vocals. More powerful songs like 'Side Effect' and 'This' maintains the Czars edge, but their real strength is in the quiet, more sicerely passionate numbers like 'Caterpillar' and 'Autumn'. These songs have that essential minor-key darkness for the forlorn tortured soul these keeps the songs out of sappy epic ballad territory that's prevalent in pop music today. The other thing missing in pop music today is dynamics and songwriting and these guys have both. But, not a single dash of "EMO" arpeggiation and pretension, thank god.
They've been mistakenly compared to Radiohead and Jeff Buckley in the past, but recent tours with 16 Horsepower and Low should give you a few more apt bands to weigh and measure them against. Starsailor, Coldplay and JJ72 may be ripping off the Radiohead coattails, but John Grant's got the baritone vocals and songwriting chops to out-muscle them any day.
Oh yeah, and they're from Denver to.
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on 2 June 2017
bought this due to john grant was not disapointted
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on 2 November 2001
The hyping of county music: nouveau country or alt.country is enough to put anyone off a group that has been pigeon-holed into one of these categories. In the case of the Czars, don't let it. This is a beautiful laid-back album full of tracks you will want to hear often. And late at night. This is a melancholy album that makes you feel good!
stand-out track for me: caterpillar.
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on 6 April 2002
The sheer audacity of this band.... The wonderful piano-led ‘Top Breed’ is sneakily hidden behind the first song ensuring that people who don’t think of rewinding the CD from the start will miss it completely. This buried opener bleeds neatly into ‘Drug’, an engaging love song in which singer/songwriter John Grant proves his rock star credentials by informing the listener that a particular aspect of his relationship “is not ecstasy, but is better than cocaine.”
The Czars are a five piece band hailing from Denver, whose last album “Before...but longer” was critically acclaimed although commercially largely neglected. On the band’s sophomore effort Grant produces a stunning vocal performance; tortured, bittersweet and angelic, drawing comparisons to Tim Buckley, Mark Eitzel and Stephen Merritt.
‘Killjoy’ boasts the band’s musical diversity. Opening with a slightly distorted harmonica and a playful trumpet, this pop song soon finds itself in Grandaddy territory with toy electronica similar to that of “The Crystal Lake”, and culminates in High Llamas style melodies whilst Tarnation’s Paula Frazer lends an elegant and operatic backing vocal. The gorgeous ‘Anger’ contains hints of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Lilac Wine’ whilst ‘Black and Blue’, with its exquisite scattered piano and pedal steel suggests a country influence. The album ends with ‘Catherine’, an upbeat piece of vintage Californian psychdelic pop defined by Grant’s Magnetic Fields style crooning. Paula Frazer adds wonderful backing vocals alongside meandering guitars and singalong harmonies whilst the pedal steel countrifies and consolidates in the background. It comes as no surprise that Denver is located about halfway between San Francisco and Nashville. A splendid album full of surprises.
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on 11 October 2009
Sublime, superb; an awesome masterpiece in it's entirety. An absolute must have for lovers of beautifully structured melodic, harmonious music. This is an album that holds it's charm from the beginning to end. All the album is missing is the glass of wine required to chill out with whilst laid back in an arm chair with your partner in your arms, the lights dimmed and the volume not too high. However, not recommended for devotees of Robbie Williams and such like but only to those with a discerning musically educated palate.
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on 14 March 2014
As a recent devotee to John Grant, I am pleased wit all the back catalogue. A very highly recommended CD, just but them all you know you want too.
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on 25 July 2016
Fab. You know it's John Grant. A slow burner, but worth the wait.
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on 21 March 2002
Following buying the be good tanyas and HEM the site pointed me towards this album. It is a big disappointment, the singing is morose and echoes, the music is good in places but either bland or loud in others. I guess it was just not what I expected, a bit to much Yes for 2002.
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