John Grant is the former lead singer of Denver's gloomy but grand Czars, a band whom you probably haven't heard of. Queen of Denmark is his first solo record, one recorded in collaboration with Texans Midlake, who you absolutely should have heard of by now, and indeed taken to your hearts.
Relocating from Colorado to New York after The Czars messy implosion, Grant waited tables and gigged infrequently before being coerced into songwriting again, and the results are this collection of powerfully raw observations on the human condition. Fuelled by the bitterness of growing up gay in a strictly religious household, Queen of Denmark transcends any notion of being strictly about sexuality, with Grant instead lyrically attacking waste, greed and the absurdity of the American at every opportunity.
Set to a musical background glossed with a sheen of seventies AOR - think a more radical Steely Dan or at a push the pop dynamic of ABBA with songs by Randy Newman - the end result is often sad, beautiful and laugh out loud funny at the same time.
As a for instance, Silver Platter Club pokes acidic fun at the dumbness of not just rich people, but equally men who go through life in a vacuum of nil self awareness. JC Hates Faggots also needs little by way of explanation in terms of subject matter, with Grant admitting that he considered suicide after being told his choice of sleeping partner was unnatural, whilst musing on the hijacking of organised religion for just about any purpose you can print a bumper sticker for.
Were Queen of Denmark just a bunch of diatribes about god and man's inhumanity to man sung by a guy with a real sense of context it would be different, but not nothing the likes of Connor Oberst hasn't been doing as Bright Eyes for years. Grant is also capable however of subtlety and pathos, demonstrated most ably on opener TC and Honeybear a lush acoustic throwback to the Kramer vs. Kramer era.
There is however one last opportunity for self laceration on the closing title track, a potty mouthed Elton-cum-Meatloaf epic which manages to rain gusto and venom on anybody brave enough to still be around. Grant will be compared inevitably to Rufus Wainwright, but he's produced a debut that, along with Gil Scott Heron's renaissance piece I'm New Here, is full of laudable depth and harnessed emotion. It's also an early contender for album of the year.