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  Music From the Film ‘I’d Rather Be ... Gone’
Artist: The Czars 
Label: Absalom Recordings
Length: 4 tracks/17:11

The moody music of The Czars takes a (mostly) unplugged turn in Music From the Film ‘I’d Rather Be ... Gone,’ a four-song offering that is the second release in Absalom Recordings’ 2001 Acoustic 3 Inch Series.

Like so many good acoustic recordings, the music here is as complex and lush as good electric albums. The Czars, a Denver band that has been around in some form since 1994, have built their career on layering guitars, piano and other instruments and topping it all off with the rich voice of John WIlliam Grant. And while they hold back their rock elements on these songs, they don’t hold back their talent.

Starting with the instrumental track, “Interlude,” there is a stellar interplay between instruments, keeping slow and low-key music exciting. Musically, the standout track is “Accident,” where Grant’s piano dances with marching drums, jazzy trumpet, sharp violin and occasional guitar feedback. Grant as singer is in his finest form. He’s a sort of Thom Yorke, though with a deeper voice and much more enunciation — most words are clearly heard right away and, like Radiohead, the imagery is both striking and ... well ... odd.

“You know your words, they don’t mean anything to me, they only serve to fatten up the pray. And when it’s time to take them to the slaughterhouse, you slice their throats, continue on your way.” Grant sings in the second track, “Drug.”

This is definitely worth checking out, as are the Czars’ other albums, including their soon-to-be-released one on Bella Union Records. The band has opened for 16 Horsepower, Vigilantes of Love and David Gray, and more fans of good music should be opening their albums in the years to come. If this disc were full-length, it might be one of the best of the year. As it stand, it’s a strong sampler, getting one tock per track.

Thomas V. Bona 8/3/2001

The 3" series from Absalom Recordings has one of its best finds in The Czars.  This Denver band is the latest release from the "acoustic stream" of the 3" series (along with discs from Songs: Ohia, Howie Gelb, The Baptist Generals, Johnny Dowd, and Calexico).

Originally recorded as the soundtrack to a small independent film, this disc barely whets your appetite and will have you looking for their full-length projects.

Springing from the same fertile soil as 16 Horsepower, the Denver Gentleman, and Slim Cessna's Auto Club, the Czars offer a pleasant mix of John William Grant's smooth and unique vocals, along with lush instrumentation.

The opening track, "Interlude" is an instrumental piece featuring flowing guitars and melancholy piano, and an understated rhythm section. 

"Drug" follows with a minimalist approach of Grant's mellow vocals over acoustic guitar.

 You are a drug to me
 I never ever thought it otherwise

 This is not jeopardy, and it's not your high school prom
 And you know that I will miss you when you're gone
 But I'm not equipped to be your mom.

The third song on the disc, "Accident" is a dissonant combination of brass and strings that brings to mind the music of the Denver Gentleman and 16 Horsepower. 

The EP ends up with "Lullaby 6000," which actually does have the peaceful sound and lyrics of a lullaby.

 So be quiet, don't make a sound
 Do not blink now, don't look down
The only thing keeping this from being a Five Tock review is the length of the disc.  A few more songs, and it would be a perfect hit.  After one
listen you may just want to check out the band's full-length releases, which are available on Simon Raymonde's (Cocteau Twins) Bella Union label.  Or go for the instant gratification of a live one-hour concert on the net at: <http://www.jamminconcerts.com/media/czars02.ram>

This disc alone is reason enough to subscribe to Absalom recordings' 3" series, but the other discs in the "Acoustic Stream" are sure to offer some other gems as well.

Ken Mueller 8/3/2001

   
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