Saturday, November 12, 2011
REVIEW: The Circus Devils - Capsized!
Circus Devils is Robert Pollard, Todd Tobias and Tim Tobias. They're pretty dark - what would you expect a 'circus devil' to sound like? - and they really do rock. Over their history (nine albums!), I've detected a sense of homage and inspiration from dirty 70's rock, but they are in no way limited to one type or sound, a trait that carries through on this record. Track one, "To England The Tigers", is a dreamy instrumental, almost Enoesque (sorry, had to get an -esque in there). The second song, "Capsized!" is vintage Circus Devils - bringing to mind great psychedelic craziness like "Vegas" from The Harold Pig Memorial, but also maybe Tom Waits as the tour guide on a late night Jungle Cruise. But there is melodic rock music here, too - track three is the very catchy "Cyclopean Runways" (click to download)...
On some of the harder rock songs like the pounding "Leave the Knife Curtis", Pollard shouts over the racket, but on track 9, he whispers over a gently-played piano. The track is "Vampire Playing a Red Piano" and it's Pollard describing the contents of a series of boxes. As with so much of the Circus Devils' work, you are constantly being supplied with atmosphere and imagery: imagine finding yourself in, say, a dark basement, a stranger walking up to you and whispering "Those boxes over there on the floor contain paralyzing secrets"... one of which, it turns out, is a film labeled "Vampire Playing a Red Piano".
Circus Devils is real, and Circus Devils is Pollard at his most unrestrained (which, honestly, is really saying something). There is a track called "Double Vission" which sounds very much like a twisted parody of, say, a Foreigner song, complete with the sounds of someone puking - followed by a strange little instrumental, "What Wallace". If you stick with 'em, though, the Circus Devils' next song rewards you with what is best described as sweet, soulful soft rock - "Plate of Scales". And that, to me, is the point of Circus Devils. You gotta take the whole ride, and it's a blast, but not everybody is gonna get it.
To give you a sense of their aesthetic (and just because I like it), here's an excerpt from the "forum" on www.circusdevils.com:
Oslo Peters from Oslo, Norway: When is Circus Devils going to reunite the classic lineup and play Oslo again?
Dear Oslo: We are still the classic lineup. No personnel changes have ever been made. It seems you are confused on this point. Once we toyed with the idea of allowing a non-human to join the band. We will not go into further detail. All we can say is that there were bites that required stitches, and a really big diaper bill. To answer your second question, we will not play Oslo until we get paid for the last show we did over there, and have our equipment returned. In case you have not heard the story, we were attacked by the sound man at that show. He came at us during our set swinging a lead pipe and screaming in Norwegian. Naturally, we ran for our lives.
Do you want to buy it yet? Well then, go to your local decent record store (mine's Grimey's) or to GBV Digital.