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The Czars | The Ugly People vs The Beautiful People (Bella Union)
While it took some memorable live performances for the songs of 'Before...But Longer', The Czars previous album, to make sense and seem less like a series of disparate, disjointed vignettes, 'The Ugly People...' focuses the combined talents of this Denver five-piece and creates an altogether more formidable brew. Singer John Grant's commanding voice continues to garner plaudits and lofty comparisons (pick a Buckley, any Buckley) and, whether in the foreboding timbre of Drug or the dreamy leap of Caterpillar, solo or harmonising with returning guest Paula Frazer, he is so in control of the material it's only a matter of time before he becomes a benchmark to others. Around him his bandmates skilfully weave textured washes of organic sound, whether delicate and poised as on the standout ballad Lullaby 6000 or the altogether more imposing strains of This, employing deft arrangements as restrained as they are experimental. Never less than melodic and engaging, 'The Ugly People vs The Beautiful People' makes good the promise of what came before...but more so.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002