John Grant's Queen of Denmark sounds like a darker, more self-deprecating Tenacious D album. In the title track, Grant captures his thematic contrasts with the line, "I wanted to change the world, but I could not even change my underwear." Outrageous comical observations serve as frosting for the deeper political undertones and depressing self-loathing. Dramatic piano hooks and Grant's tender voice may evoke a shadowy piano bar in the AM golden years of the 1970s, but his candid lyrics render the songs anything but easy listening.
"Jesus Hates Faggots" is the perfect example of how Grant pairs glittery pop and a searing confrontation with the worst of humanity. "Marz" could be a track off of a Gordon Lightfoot album, with its flute-infused celestial sound and candy-coated lyrics like, "Golden champagne, juicy grapefruit, lucky Monday. High school football, hot fudge, buffalo, tulip, Sunday." "TC and Honeybear" comes off like a children's storybook until you listen closely and realize it's dissecting a heavy breakup.
At first, the flute solos and ABBA crescendos overwhelm the ballsy aspects of Queen of Denmark. But given a few plays, Grant's intelligent creation really shines.
John Grant plays the Badlander Friday, May 28, at 9 PM with Midlake and Jason Lytle. $10.