Release Date: Dec 9, 2014
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
While the solo career of singer-songwriter John Grant continues to blossom, it remains a mystery as to why his former band, The Czars, never enjoyed the same acclaim. All the key elements of Grant’s appeal were there: the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing trick of couching spiky lyrics in melodically sumptuous music; the refined, heart-on-sleeve balladry; that resonant, rich sigh of a voice. Arguably, The Czars never quite made an album worthy of the attention of Grant’s superlative debut, Queen Of Denmark, but, happily, The Best Of assumes that mantle: a lovingly compiled collection of the band’s strengths.
It’s an inevitability that when frontmen go solo, their erstwhile bands will be mentioned in almost every subsequent review. It’s rare that bands are compared to their frontmen, if only for chronological reasons, though surely there were some who bought Elliott Smith records because he was 'that guy from Heatmiser.' But one assumes that if a band managed to release five albums on a notable independent label, said band would be the springboard for their frontman’s solo career. Such was not the case for The Czars.
Long before he became the self-styled “greatest motherfucker you’re ever gonna meet” with his two magnificent solo albums, John Grant was the lead singer of The Czars. One of Simon Raymonde‘s earliest signings to his Bella Union label, the six-piece band had an erratic and not wildly commercially successful career, but still managed to stay together for a decade, producing six albums’ worth of material. This compilation isn’t a particularly exhaustive retrospective of The Czars, despite its 18 tracks.