Circus Devils: Laughs Best (The Kids Eat It Up) [Album Review] 0 316

Circus Devils: Laughs Best (The Kids Eat It Up) [Album Review] 0 317

Circus Devils
Laughs Best (The Kids Eat It Up): Best of Circus Devils
Happy Jack Rock Records [2017]



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Fire Note Says: Circus Devils are sent off in fine fashion with this career-spanning double-LP compilation

Album Review: Circus Devils has never been for the casual Robert Pollard fan. The “band,” comprising Pollard and brothers Todd and Tim Tobias, is as unpredictable as they are downright weird: what you find on one album is no indication of how the next will sound—or any in their fourteen-album discography, for that matter. The band has explored crunchy heavy metal rock operas, spaghetti western-inspired song cycles, studio experimentation, progressive rock excursions, moody ambient soundscapes, and straight-up power pop (albeit with bizarre, surrealist lyrics). So how does one begin to put together a “greatest hits” for a band that purposefully steers clear of commercial considerations?

While such a problem might stump even the most rabid Circus Devils fan, Pollard’s sequencing talent is the key. Not only do albums from his other projects like Motivational Jumpsuit, From A Compound Eye, and Let It Beard demonstrate his knack for ordering tracks in a way that is both satisfying and revealing, his other compilations—both official and unofficial, of his own and others’ material—are often definitive, even when they avoid obvious choices. The same is true of Laughs Best: Pollard often cherry-picks one or two obscure tracks from fan-favorite albums, resurrecting gems like “Locomotion Blue Note” (My Mind Has Seen The White Trick) and “Correcto” (Ringworm Interiors) and surrounding them with complementary tracks that bring them into sharper focus. Another surprising aspect of the track selection is its apparent imbalance: rather than taking two or three tracks from every album, some albums are (surprisingly) underrepresented with a single track (debut Ringworm Interiors, fan-favorite The Harold Pig Memorial, Five, Mother Skinny, and simultaneous releases When Machines Attack and My Mind Has Seen The White Trick). Others have as many as four or five, which makes sense for double-album Sgt. Disco, but less so for Ataxia and outlier Gringo. At three tracks, the new (and final) Circus Devils album Laughs Last gets more representation than most of the band’s other records.

Such an imbalance might not seem to work on paper, but once you throw the album(s) on your turntable, you don’t even notice—Laughs Best isn’t all of the best Circus Devils music, but it’s a fantastic and fascinating cross-section. Its thirty tracks make clear how well Pollard’s vocal and lyrical abilities fit the Tobias brothers’ musical sensibilities, and its sixteen-year span (which rivals the initial run of GBV) makes a good argument for the band’s importance in Pollard’s overall body of work. Long-time fans will appreciate some of the left-field song choices and expert sequencing, but as all good compilations should be it’s also a great entry point into the intimidating Circus Devils catalogue. While we wish there were more albums on the way, Laughs Best is a fine way to say goodbye. Circus Devils is real! Long live Circus Devils!

Key Tracks: All of them.

Artists With Similar Fire: None.

Circus Devils Website
Happy Jack Rock Records

-Reviewed by Simon Workman

Simon Workman

Simon Workman

Simon Workman has loved rock n' roll ever since his dad made him Beatles and Beach Boys mix tapes as a kid. These days his musical interests have a wide range, though he's still got a strong connection to the music of the 60s and 70s. He lives in Dayton and is currently working on a PhD in English literature at the University of Cincinnati. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @simonworkman.
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Hovvdy: Cranberry [Album Review] 0 464

Hovvdy
Cranberry
Double Double Whammy Records [2018]

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Who: Based in Austin, Texas, Hovvdy (pronounced “howdy”) is the writing and recording project of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor. The duo, both primarily drummers, first met in the fall of 2014 and quickly bonded over a love for quiet music. Cranberry is their sophomore record.

Sound: If you are into current soft intricate warm jangly rock like Ultimate Painting, Pinegrove, (Sandy) Alex G or past favorites such as Low and Yo La Tengo then Hovvdy should be a great new listen for you to check out.

TFN Final Take: Pacing is everything and on Hovvdy’s sophomore record, Cranberry, the Austin duo of Charlie Martin and Will Taylor take you on a soft ride through 12 new tracks over 33 minutes. These disguised pop tunes have a way to get in your head with every well-placed strum of guitar, every stroke of the keys and every soft hit of the skins. This gentle wave is Hovvdy’s success because the record never tires even though the group maintains a very similar mood and execution through the entire album. What I really liked about Cranberry is the subtle bit of haze that Hovvdy places over their layered vocals. They are a little bit lo-fi and a little bit bedroom pop that consistently pulls a catchy tune together. Hovvdy is a band to just put on, relax and let Cranberry take you to another place.



Hovvdy Website
Hovvdy Facebook
Double Double Whammy Records

– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde

Simon Workman

Simon Workman

Simon Workman has loved rock n' roll ever since his dad made him Beatles and Beach Boys mix tapes as a kid. These days his musical interests have a wide range, though he's still got a strong connection to the music of the 60s and 70s. He lives in Dayton and is currently working on a PhD in English literature at the University of Cincinnati. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @simonworkman.
Simon Workman

Latest posts by Simon Workman (see all)

Ruby Boots: Don’t Talk About It [Album Review] 0 469

Ruby Boots
Don’t Talk About It
Bloodshot Records [2018]







Fire Note Says: Aussie country rocker with promise debuts States-side for Bloodshot Records.

Album Review: The second album from Ruby Boots roars out of the gate with “It’s So Cruel,” a cow-punk rocker that recalls the energy of Jason & The Scorchers. But before you get your hopes up, producer Beau Bedford (of The Texas Gentlemen), perhaps eager to display the singer/songwriter’s versatility, offers her up in the big doo-wop wall of sound of “Believe In Heaven,” nostalgic for the early days when Phil Spector was producing girl groups as rock & roll was first finding it’s way into the mainstream. “Don’t Talk About It,” the album’s title track, follows. It’s another ballad with orchestration that draws inspiration from that old school retro-sound.

Ruby Boots (real name, Bex Chilcott) comes from Australia via Nashville and had one previous album on an Aussie imprint before this debut on Bloodshot Records, a journey made by Kasey Chambers and others. Following the first three big production numbers, Boots sounds more at home on “Easy Way Out,” with a chord progression borrowed from the Tom Petty songbook, and the country weeper “Don’t Break My Heart Twice.”


The second half of the album sticks closer to country/rock formulas, with “I’ll Make It Through,” co-written and with harmony vocals by Nikki Lane, “Somebody Else” and “Infatuation,” are set up by punchy rhythms, strong vocal hooks, and solid, rocking guitars and minimal twang. Okay Boots has some twang in her voice on “Infatuation.” On these three, and the closing angry, country kick you to the curb slow burner with bluesy guitar and honky-tonk piano/organ that is “Don’t Give a Damn,” Boots sounds a bit like a young Lucinda Williams as the song heats up like a Rolling Stones’ song.

It’s the nearly a capella, almost hymnic “I Am A Woman,” that exhibits Boots’ voice in all it’s unique purity, in a spiritual song that declares her feminine gifts and her internal strength of being, echoing strength alongside vulnerability. On the whole this is a solid, inviting outing, driven by good songs and equally solid performances. Ruby Boots will be one to watch.

Key Tracks: “It’s So Cruel” / “Easy Way Out” / “Infatution”

Artists With Similar Fire: Nikki Lane / Lone Justice / Lydia Loveless



Ruby Boots Website
Ruby Boots Facebook
Bloodshot Records

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Simon Workman

Simon Workman

Simon Workman has loved rock n' roll ever since his dad made him Beatles and Beach Boys mix tapes as a kid. These days his musical interests have a wide range, though he's still got a strong connection to the music of the 60s and 70s. He lives in Dayton and is currently working on a PhD in English literature at the University of Cincinnati. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @simonworkman.
Simon Workman

Latest posts by Simon Workman (see all)

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