steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Circus Devils

"Gringo" CD

Happy Jack Rock Records

Genre: rock, prog rock, experimental rock

Akron, OH

May 8, 2009

It hasn't been long since we last heard from Circus Devils, as their last record just came out last Halloween. Yet, Gringo marks the band's latest attempt to separate itself from the vast pack of Robert Pollard related projects. And it seems as if they're doing just that. While Ataxia was an intriguing and unique pop experiment, Gringo condenses the band's quirkiness and carves it into a unique yet distinctly melodic release.

A collaboration between Pollard and Tim and Todd Tobias, Circus Devils exudes a healthy prog influence, although Gringo is principally a pop album if nothing else. Among these sixteen songs are several serious treats, including fiesty "Easy Baby," and menacing "Letters From A Witch." Equally intoxicating are brilliantly keyboard-laden "In Your Hour of Rescue" and acoustic folker "Shipped from Prison to Prison." And beyond the more accessible "singles" lie several intriguing experiments, including dark "Monkey Head" and "Arizona Blacktop Co." and appealing atmospheric sojourns "Hot Water Wine" and "Yellow Cloud."

As always, the knock on this record is, perhaps, its lack of cohesion. Tobias, Tobias, and Pollard have seemingly always been more about songs than albums, and this eclectic batch of material is no exception. Still, there are vague themes tying this disc together, specifically Pollard's unmistakable voice (the Tobiases don't sing), and what could be dubbed "quirk prog."

Still, whether this is a collection of songs or a true album in the gestalt sense of the word is rather inconsequential. What is important is that Gringo is a real step forward for Circus Devils, whose recent output is beginning to rival Pollard's own solo material.

circus devils' myspace


youuuuuuuutube!: "get me extra!" (from ataxia)

Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 16 tracks, distributed by Rockathon Music, released April 14, 2009]