March 17th, 2011 11:06 EST
John Grant`s Queen of Denmark Pans On the Intersection of the `70s and the 21st Century!
Queen of Denmark references many pinnacles of pop, especially some marquee moments of the 1970s, and taps the oil reserves of the likes of Harry Nilsson, Stephen Bishop or Elton John, but the dÃ©jÃ vu quickly vanishes and merges in the fast lane of a 21st century format, that is unique to John Grant`s vision solamente. Tender Loving Care defines this homegrown masterpiece recorded in Denton with the band Midlake, who hold the key of invention and arrangement canny for John`s subterranean specter.
The haunting motion of the cyclical piano, synthesizer strings, and touches of flute make Marz the signature piece of the album. The sweet shop from John`s past is in a minor melancholic key, as if it wasn`t all sweetness that happened there, some undefined pathos has it`s roots there as well. a Coney Island nightmare dirge, cobweb memories, a toothache perhaps, daftness emanates from my sprawling spring break lawn chair.
Where Dreams Go to Die is John Grant`s Yesterday; several songs in one, with the opening remarks projecting from the stage like a Shakespeare narrator setting the stage for what`s about to happen. Then it sweeps into the pop passion play with the gossamer chorus lines: "Baby you`re where dreams go to die/I regret the day your lovely carcass caught my eye." This is Gothic out-of-sink irony against a tender, warmly delivered vocal. Layers of irony and grief on a pop base of sensibilities.
Let me just say, the instrumental middle section sounds like what George Martin use to do with a Lennon/McCartney song such as Yesterday or Eleanor Rigby. Midlake knows their way around the studio; I could use an instrument breakdown for each song and a lyric sheet for John`s compositions. Such is the hazard of buying music on itunes.
Silver Platter Club is a peppy bright rag of a rant about how John had to struggle to attain his identity in life. Another `70s song, Alone Again by Gilbert O`Sullivan is casually suggested in the melody. This is against a Scott Joplin-like ragtime piano with a middle brass part (a trombone) that references the 1920s, the Wolverines and Bix Beiderbecke. "I wish I had the brain of tyrannosaurus rex, then I wouldn`t have to deal with all the crap." The stereotypes of society aren`t John`s Bag! Identity search in a ragtime jaunt is a first for pop music.
Caramel, with those arpeggio, cascading keys, brings me chills; voice is clear-throated ala Stephen Bishop " chording fluctuates between minor and major, and there`s those theremin pipings again. And there`s the familiar candy shop to lover analogy,but the parallels are so many more. Sprinkles of Roswell-esque outer-space keys again odes of passion and layers of sound effects, then the final John Carpenter floating piano riff brings closure and goose bumps galore. I play it back again mining for missed associations of music and meaning. Did I miss the boat?
I won`t beat around the bush, the title track Queen of Denmark reminds me of two classics from the 1970s. First there`s Harry Nilsson`s If Living Is Without You, a Pete Ham composition from Badfinger, and then because of the way the piano part is structured, Queen reminds me of Nobody Loves You When Your Down and Out, from John Lennon`s Walls And Bridges. But it`s still original, those are just references that make me appreciate it rather more so.
Why don`t you take it out on somebody else? " The Drums accent a crescendo of the record; suddenly everyone enters the stage and takes a big bow. All the `70s pipedream bubbles ride out on a Mardi Gras float, along with all the characters that populate John Grant`s imaginative world. Carnies from the candy shop, old lovers, washed up band mates, and there`s his saviors to ART, Midlake, who get the BIG PICTURE in John`s crowded brain and freeze his phantasm of fantasies with unearthly sounds.