Guided By Robert Pollard

Circus Devils

by Propellerless

I feel that Circus Devils never found their audience.

I must admit the only reason I know about them,
and it’s probably the reason most people know of them.
Because being a GBV fan since 1995,
I bought everything Robert Pollard ever recorded.

When the first Circus Devil album, “Ringworm Interiors” appeared,
I, without question , ordered it.
The album and band, are without a doubt,
the strangest project Bob has ever been involved in.
And in time I learned to love it.

It was not just because of being a Robert Pollard fan
that I grew to love the band.
but because I always enjoyed strange experimental music.

Circus Devils are that weird part of rock music that GBV didn’t cover;
but apparently that Bob was a fan of,
which shows in the recordings he made with Circus Devils.

There are fans of Psychedelic Rock that show albums that they recommend on YouTube,
most of the albums they show are from the sixties and late seventies.
But they also show some more current bands albums too.

Apparently there is a Psychedelic Music scene going on now.

But never once did I see anyone show a Circus Devils album,
and Believe me, Circus Devils are better than most of the bands
that are shown.

I think that fans of the current Psychedelic Rock scene would go crazy for Circus Devils,
even if they'll never know who Guided By Voices or Robert Pollard is.

That is the audience that has yet to find the band.
Hopefully some day they will.

“Ataxia” is Circus Devils at a peak,
that continued till they broke up in 2017.

Those first four albums they made as part of the Fading Captain Series,
I see as an example of what the band could do,
as far as different styles, like Prog, Ambient, Electronic and even Metal.

But with the bands fifth album, “Sgt. Disco” everything just seemed to come together.
It seemed that Circus Devils became more of a band,
than a side project.

“Sgt. Disco” was released on Ipecac Records, which is run by Mike Patton of
Faith No More and Mr. Bungle.
Circus Devils were dropped by the label not long after the album’s release.

“Ataxia” and every Circus Devils album from here on in,
were on Happy Jack Records;
which I believe is a subsidiary of Guided By Voices Inc.

“Ataxia” is scary, beautiful and it also rocks.
This is the kind of album that you have to sit and listen to.
to take in everything that's going on.
I don’t think I’d clean the house while listening to this album,
you never know what could happen.

The musical soundscapes are provided by multi-instrumentalist Todd Tobias.
Todd’s brother Tim, (GBV alumni) rejoins the band on guitar
after a two album absence.

The brilliance of the band is they don’t let things go on too long,
which was always my complaint with experimental bands.

The album starts off with the creepy atmospheric “Under Review”,
then jumps into the Psych/Prog/Metal of “I-Razors”,
I found myself replaying it multiple times.
(note: Watch the video on YouTube!)

“Freedom’s Monster” is another cool rocker, that goes into
some weird territory.
“That’s the Spirit” is one of the short weird ambient instrumentals
that has the same creepy feeling as those short instrumental tracks
Wall of Voodoo included on their first ep.
Sort of nightmarish.

“Backwash Television” sounds like British Post-Punk with Bob doing
his best Cockney, very reminiscent of the Fall.
“The Girls Will Make it Happen” is a definite highlight with its rave-like instrumentation.
Watch the cool video on YouTube, though I don’t think it’s official.

“Mayflower Brought Disease” is the only song on this album
that could have been a Guided By Voices track,
except for the weird psychedelic part.
“Stars, Stripes and Crack Pipes” is another highlight with its chunky guitar
that sounds like post-punk.

The instrumental title track “Ataxia” provides a calm before the craziness
of “Nets At Every Angle” and “Hi I’m Martha, How Are You?” which reminds me of
the Residents at their most spooky and strange.

“Get Me Extra!” is a strange sequenced synthesizer track that would feel at home
in the early seventies, with such classics as “Warm Leatherette” and
“T.V.O.D.” by the Normal, except here we get a distorted Pollard vocal.
You’ve got to catch the video on YouTube.

“He Had All Day” is another calm-before-the-storm track,
beautiful and brilliant, a gem.
Featured on the “I-Razor” movie and soundtrack.

“Fuzz In The Street” is the longest song on the album at six and a half minutes.
after two minutes the song becomes ambient, then noisy and disturbing,
then silent before some spoken word ends the track.

The album ends with the angler rock of “Rat Face Ballerina” which
could have easily fit on one of Pollard’s solo albums.

The album in all is Brilliant.
“Sgt. Disco” is a Great album, but like most double albums,
some great tracks get buried and overlooked.
“Ataxia” is more condensed and to the point.

“A” freakin’ Plus