Ten years in, Colorado five-piece deliver career-defining album

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Ruling Class

With their last album, 2001’s The Ugly People Vs The Beautiful People, The Czars emerged as masters of the crestfallen chamber ballad. Produced by Simon Raymonde, ex-Cocteau Twin and the band’s label boss, it distilled the intimacy of 2000’s Before…But Longer into a richly layered quilt of baroque pop, luxuriantly embroidered by the vivid vocalisms of leader John Grant. If anything, the self-produced Goodbye is even more striking.

Grant’s elegantly expressive baritone remains its centrepiece, but plaintive piano (he was a classical scholar back in his younger days) and occasional strings powder the air with the delicate doom of a failed Regency romance. It’s often beautiful stuff, belying the misery within. Lyrically, it’s a catharsis of ugly sorts, Grant struggling through the mire of lost loves and missed opportunity with equal parts guile and bile. “Trash”, for instance, drips with lover-scorned vitriol, intoning, “Save that bullshit for the bedroom/That’s where all your best work gets done”, before a gentle courtier-waltz gives way to a scything guitar solo and the concluding line, “Why don’t you try sticking your dick/Into all the things that you bought/With your hard-earned cash?”The wonderful “Bright Black Eyes”is equally scathing, but Grant rises to the kind of soaring vocal crescendo mostly reserved for emotional uplift,