There’s probably examples of more unlikely, convoluted routes to critical acclaim and a peak of popularity, but JOHN GRANT’s is still hardly orthodox. Thirty-six in 2004, when the under-the-radar, glacially paced rise of his band The Czars imploded violently with all five bandmates upping and leaving over nine turbulent months, Grant took an extended break before composing his most markedly personal lyrics – addressing his relationships, sexuality, addictions, childhood and more – and recording them with Midlake as his backing band. The resulting debut solo album, Queen of Denmark, promptly outstripped not only The Czars’ whole career in terms of impact, but arguably Midlake’s impressive recent resumé, going on to be named album of the year by Mojo amongst others. With Grant’s warm, versatile croon recalling anyone from Harry Nilsson to Tim Buckley, Dennis Wilson to Chet Baker, the album seems rooted musically in a rustic 1970s America but frequently startles with the stinging poignancy of its lyrics.
Central to the impact of the album were its two promo videos, directed by Cardiff’s own wizards of the disturbing and memorable image Casey Raymond and Ewan Jones Morris; ‘Marz’ meditated on death and afterlife with a cast of familiar faces dancing and welcoming a young suicide with beatific smiles amid a sea of floating confectionery, while the clip for ‘Chicken Bones’ saw Grant wandering Grangetown and Bessemer Road market as a budget superhero before embarking on a lysergic after-hours journey through Clwb and a love rival’s waterside flat. Adopted as a friend of the city, a main stage slot at Green Man last year saw Grant accompanied by a solo piano and holding a mid-afternoon crowd rapt, no mean feat. A great raconteur, candid, touching and funny, and a fine songwriter, this intimate setting will surely suit him down to the ground.
Saturday 25th June 2011
The Gate, Roath, Cardiff
£16.50 adv from swnpresents.com
Bristol Ticket Shop
This is a 14+ show / please bring ID
JOHN GRANT, former singer/songwriter with Bella Union cult favorites THE CZARS, returned with an extraordinary debut solo album made with MIDLAKE.
Everyone has a favorite band or singer they reckon is subject to criminal neglect. That John Grant’s effortlessly rich, expansive baritone, couched in typically heartbreaking, lush melody, hadn’t found a wider audience many would consider a crime. But no longer. Because Grant’s first solo album was so undeniably great that the world listened. It won glorious reviews, with Mojo naming it their album of 2010.
It’s a record of gravitas and grace, of FM melody magic laced with raw emotional bleeding. It asks why relationships are roulette and love is hell in a last-ditch attempt at self-improvement and atonement after years of alcohol and cocaine dependency. And on top, to further the album’s brilliance, Grant’s backing band on the album are Bella Union label-mates MIDLAKE, contributing their most empathic ‘70s-style soft-rock know-how. Put simply, “Queen Of Denmark” is the record Grant was waiting his whole life to make.
Not that the Czars didn’t hit their own heights. After emerging from Denver, Colorado, rave reviews were the norm… “Long distinguished by John Grant’s superlative baritone, ‘Goodbye’ reeks of wistful, melancholic class… as meticulous and complete-sounding as the best works by Mercury Rev or The Flaming Lips” said Uncut about The Czars’ final album.
“Queen Of Denmark” was recorded in Denton in late 2008 through 2009 in the studio downtime while Midlake were recording their own record. The album moves through simple piano settings via an infusion of period-perfect synths that epitomise the lonely mood. There’s flute from Midlake frontman Tim Smith on the dreamiest cut ‘Marz’ and velvet strings on ‘Dreams’, which imagines Scott Walker influenced by Patsy Cline. There is pure longing in the opening ‘TC And Honeybear’ and bitterly sarcastic anger in the magnificent title track finale… Pain, hope, fear, regret and self-discovery… “Queen of Denmark” has it all… framed within some of the finest songs you’ll hear in this or any other year…
Critical acclaim for “Queen Of Denmark”, the debut album by John Grant, released April 2010 on Bella Union records…
“A work of transcendent wonder… Grant confronts romantic loss with astonishing depth of feeling… brutally funny… gorgeously bleak… truly beautiful”
MOJO – 5 Stars ***** (Number 1 MOJO Album of the year)
“the most gorgeous, Seventies-style folky, floaty, dreamy, trippy soft rock you’ve ever heard… a masterpiece”
Sunday Telegraph – 5 Stars *****
“Heartfelt and heartbreaking… Close to perfect”
The Independent On Sunday – 5 stars *****
“Queen Of Denmark takes John’s accomplishments to a new level… without question one of the year’s best albums”
The Sun – 5 Stars *****
“Grant on top form… Wry tales of personal redemption are backed by Midlake’s 70s soft-rock, tuned to its most dreamy”
NME – 8/10
“an album of strength and beauty… Grant’s vocals float over backing from Midlake at their most dreamy and lush”
Q – 4 Stars ****
“a colossus… these are songs with an air of vastness and contemplation recalling Dennis Wilson’s masterpiece, Pacific Ocean Blue… Grant is a man whose time has come”
The Guardian – 4 Stars ****
“Grant is Karen Carpenter to Midlake’s Supertramp: a painfully honest writer, able to render discomfiture in songs with the sweetness of nursery rhymes”
Uncut – 4 Stars ****
“A near-perfect marriage of Grant’s warm baritone with Midlake’s lush woodwind and keyboard textures”
The Independent – 4 stars ****
“while Grant can’t attain perfection in his actual life, he gets pretty close in his art”
The Sunday Times – 4 Stars ****
“Queen of Denmark alchemises John Grant’s complicated personal life into warm, infectiously charming classic rock”
Financial Times – 4 Stars ****
“a brilliant mixture of anger, confession, humour, melody and astonishing vocals… An extraordinary album”
“A masterpiece of soft, 70s melodies and sadness… Terrific.”
“a daring record: Seventies-sounding ballads full of lush wistfulness and unexpected humour”
“The Czars’ John Grant returns with a ravaged confessional honey of an album… Intoxicating.”
The Independent (Information)
“A luxurious sounding collection… sweeping, epic ballds are Grant’s forte”