Ruling Class

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

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Updated with a deep dive into Archives II and more

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,


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The Velvet Underground, The Black Crowes, Bunny Wailer, Richard Thompson, Nick Cave, Rhiannon Giddens, Laurie Anderson, Blake Mills, Postcard Records, Mogwai and The Selecter