John Grant is one of those artists who can pull off almost anything. His album ‘Queen Of Denmark’ consists of songs filled with humour, relationship break ups, religion and general life issues. A collaboration with the band Midlake, its pop, synth-pop, folk and electronic. He also showcases his skills on the piano in most tracks. He doesn’t hold back on the honesty either, using the facts that he is gay and also HIV positive as stories and also a reason to be so blunt about certain things. The no holding back, fuck them I’ll say what I want aspect of this album makes it enjoyable because these aren’t bullshit love songs. They’re sad, but also hopeful.
The album starts with ‘TC and Honeybear’, a love story and a track that eases you into the album, introducing itself with a 70’s, 80’s folk guitar sound. He uses a teddy bear and what seems to be a bird as characters, with Honeybear being the lonely soul whose life changed when TC came along. You don’t need a degree in Astrophysics to understand that John Grant himself is the Honeybear and he uses him to describe his own issues. Following ‘TC And Honeybear’ is ‘Marz’. If you thought you had any idea what to expect from the album going by the opening track, that idea will have been thrown out the window the second ‘Marz’ begins. Comical, mixed, uncertain lyrics backed by an elegant piano melody, it somehow makes sense even though the lyrics don’t seem to tell any kind of story. ‘Marz’ is like a journey, a soundtrack for the stars that really surprises you, taking you away for 4 minutes, and leading you onto ‘Where Dreams Go To Die’. In the first 20 seconds we have piano, violin and synth, staying somewhat in line with what you just heard on ‘Marz’. The song is about a person who he knows will ruin him and that it won’t end very well (dreams go to die). The lyrics also show his funny and broad use of words when he sings ‘…and I regret the day, your lovely carcass caught my eye…’. You don’t imagine the word ‘carcass’ fitting so well with the arrangement, but it does. ‘Sigourney Weaver’ is even more loose in terms of storytelling as Grant uses her ‘Alien’ character and also Winona Ryder’s character in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ to describe his feelings of uncertainty and being lost in the world.
With the next two tracks ‘Chicken Bones’ and ‘Silver Platter Club’ Grant takes away any restrictions he may have had at all on what makes it onto the album. A massive blend of guitar, pop, soft backing vocals and whimsical lyrics make these too enjoyable but very unusual. He breaks the lyrics down to a tongue-in-cheek manner, telling everyone to fuck off and saying he’s sick of certain shit that pisses him off. In ‘Silver Platter Club’ he apologises for not being perfect or better at sports! ‘I wish that confidence was all you could see in my eyes, like those interviews in locker rooms with talented sports guys’ is a solid example of what how he sings on this track. ‘Outer Space’ is a brilliant track, a love song about trying to find out how the person he’s infatuated with became so perfect. He believes they must be from outer space, because I guess they’re out of this world. A much more structured melody makes this one very easy to love. The next track, ‘Jesus Hates Faggots’ is one of the most honest songs on the album. He doesn’t hold back, claiming people who believe in Jesus are idiots and that Jesus is the ‘mastermind of lies’. Just read these lyrics and you’ll see what I mean,
He hates faggots, son.
We told you that when you were young.
Or pretty much anyone you want him to
Like niggers, spics, redskins, and kikes.
Men who cannot tame their wives.
Weaklings, cowards and bull dykes.
And when we win the war on society,
I hope your blind eyes will be opened and you’ll see…‘
So no holding back there, but the way he has no fear of expressing himself and also that he’s giving his view from the side of a gay man, makes this one brilliant. You can’t ignore it, its a little raw and very risky. Following this is ‘Caramel’. Possibly the best track on the album. Excellent piano and synth-pop arrangement with a kind of outer space feeling, Grant sings about his love who makes him his best possible self, someone who takes away his fears and forget his worries. This song is more than likely written for someone he was seeing at the time because it feels like he really means it. The track then descends into outer space but returns to a beautiful change on the piano before seeing itself out. ‘Queen Of Denmark’, the title track closes the album and its a good one. Once again the lyrics are incredibly loose and care free, such as
‘I casually mention that I pissed in your coffee
I hope you know that all I want from you is sex
To be with someone that looks smashing in athletic wear
And if your haircut isn’t right, you’ll be dismissed’
‘I really don’t know who the fuck you think you are
Could I please see your license and your registration?‘
Pounding drums as his anger increases, with some distortion to add to the confusion makes ‘Queen Of Denmark’ an outstanding track. Its easy to see why people often refer to it as one of his best.
As you can probably tell from the length of this review, I love this album. I also love how John Grant comes across, being so real and honest, saying and making whatever music he wanted to. I highly recommend picking it up or downloading it or whatever the hell way you listen to music. Give it a few listens and you’ll find something new and surprising each time.