Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
As easy to admire as it is hard to love, Goodbye, the latest album by Denver pop artistes and pretenders to the Romanov throne the Czars, boasts a sound as chilly as the Siberian steppes, as gilded as a Fabergé egg, and as welcoming as a Bolshevik firing squad. But behind the frosty formalism there beats a heart as big as the Ukraine (where, by the way, Czar in Chief John Grant is rumored to have studied linguistics). The album’s opening “Goodbye Intro” has Grant dolefully, like some more Slavic version of Eric Carmen, tickling the ivories all by himself. Fortunately, that diddy quickly segues into the title track, a piano-powered paean to schmaltz that gives Grant, a golden-throated throwback to the icons of ’70s easy listening, oodles of crooning room. “Paint the Moon” is a slice of mock-Americana pie that—with its big reverb guitar and smooth-as-Stolichnaya vocals—is paint-by-numbers easy to love: All yearning and heartbreak, it’s as warm a tune as you’re likely to hear from these masters of the frigid air. And “Hymn” brings to mind the baroque vocal harmonies of Brian Wilson’s “teenage symphonies to God,” if said adolescents grew up to be art pigs. As for the gorgeous “My Love,” it’s the best Bread-inspired tribute to My Green Crocodile (Vadim Kurchevsky’s 1966 animated short about the love between a croc and a cow) of all time. “I Am the Man” is up-tempo pop-prog with lots of natty synth flourishes filched directly from Grandaddy. “Trash” is a catchy putdown song à la “Positively 4th Street” that comes with an over-the-top guitar solo by ringer Richard Odell, who seems to be under the illusion that he’s (1) a member of Styx and (2) getting paid by the note. The Czars actually bring the (highly polished) rock on not-so-hidden-track “Pain,” which squeezes synth squiggles over a tasty Jesus and Mary Chain–style ax/vox purée. Goodbye’s only outright stinkers are “Little Pink House” and “I Saw a Ship,” both of which attempt to put a sophisticated spin on the cocktail blues only to come off sounding stilted and pretentious. These guys may prove that it’s possible to still sell three-decade-old Bread, but they’re better off leaving those buttery blues alone.—Michael Little