THE CZARS Sorry I Made You Cry (Bella Union)
The Czars are now seemingly less a band than a collective that orbited around frontman and sole remaining member John Grant. Sorry I Made You Cry gathers up cover versions released on albums and b-sides during their first decade, yet it makes an astonishingly coherent and cohesive listen. The luxuriant arrangements belie their sparse instrumentation; all ambient drones wrapped in country feedback, these are torch songs cloaked in sexual ambiguity.
The tumbling trumpet introduction to Black Is The Colour sounds like a flamenco Cocteau Twins, and a doomy, glistening take on Abbas Angel Eyes conjures velveteen surfaces out of two guitars and Grants multitracked croon. Whilst a version of Connie Francis Where The Boys Are aches with longing, My Funny Valentines mesh of reverberant guitar is positively funereal, at least up to the point where Grant commits the cardinal sin of adding new lyrics, at which point it sounds like its been gatecrashed by another song entirely. For Emily is pretty but bloodless the live rendition on Simon & Garfunkels Greatest Hits sets a near-unattainable target for any artist brave enough to follow it but then again Paul Simons work rarely travels well. A version of Song To The Siren is inevitably fated to fall short of both Tim Buckleys spectral original and This Mortal Coils hypnotic interpretation, but, backed by the most elaborate ensemble assembled here (with three guitarists, like theyre Lynyrd Skynyrd or something) it shimmers.
With its eloquent twist on the familiar, Sorry I Made You Cry deserves to soundtrack hipster dinner parties and lazy Sundays for some time to come.