MONM 2011 Day 12: John Grant’s Queen of Denmark

John Grant – Queen of Denmark (2010, Bella Union)

There’s a lot to like about John Grant’s Queen of Denmark. Grant’s baritone is rich and smooth, his lyrics can be clever, and the arrangements (ably performed by Midlake, who coaxed Grant back into the music biz after the breakup of his last band, The Czars) are steeped in the best sort of ’70s singer-songwriter traditions. And particularly when it goes out on a limb – the Brill Building pop of “Silver Platter Club” and the bitter, vulgar “Jesus Hates Faggots” being two prime examples – it can be memorably theatrical, and downright fun in its own way.

Unfortunately, it does get dragged down by a few too many mid-tempo ballads, and a sameness to the songs despite stabs at a variety of genres. Strong as Grant’s voice is, he doesn’t show off a particularly wide vocal range, and the melodies blend together before too long. That puts too much weight on the lyrics to distinguish between the songs. Your mileage might vary, but lines like “I feel just like Wynona Ryder in that movie about vampires, and she couldn’t get that accent right, and neither could that other guy” (from the song “Sigourney Weaver”) don’t strike me as particularly suited to load-bearing.

If nothing else, Queen of Denmark seems like it might work better piecemeal. It’d sit well alongside the Scissor Sisters or the Magnetic Fields on a mixtape, and I could see getting the urge to revisit it if any of the songs came up on shuffle. But I doubt I’d feel compelled to finish it.

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