Guided By Robert Pollard

Circus Devils

by Propellerless

In Todd Tobias’ book, Circus Devils - See You Inside,
he discusses the procedure for creating a Circus Devils record.

He would record a soundscape and give it to Robert Pollard
to write lyrics to be recorded on top of it.
That’s a pretty basic explanation,
but it’s more complicated than that.
During the process of writing the music,
there is no communication between the two, till the music track is finished.
Pollard takes the tapes, creates a melody line for the vocals,
writes the lyrics and records them.

It sounds so easy,
But I think it is something quite magical.
Because the songs, especially the ones on this album,
sound like Bob and Todd crafted the songs in a room,
with the two sitting across from each other.

After the nightmarish landscapes that was “Ataxia”, Circus Devils prior album,
“Gringo” is downright soothing.
It isn’t as lethargic as say “Automatic For the People” by REM,
but for Circus Devils it’s kinda nice.

The songs are more acoustic based than anything Circus Devils
have done so far.
Those who found their previous albums too creepy and weird for them,
would probably really enjoy this album.

Todd admits that during the making of “Gringo”, he wondered,
“What if we could make songs that girls liked?’
he thought about it as he picked up his guitar and begin to record
the new album.

Unlike many of the bands records,
Robert Pollards voice doesn’t have a lot of effects.
Quite a few of the songs such as “Witness Hill”, “Before It Walks”, “In Your Hour of Rescue”
“Ships From Prison To Prison” and “Every Moment Flame On” could easily appear on any
of Pollards solo albums.

If this album came out in the early 70’s a lot of these songs like,
“Easy Baby” and the brilliant “The Beast Falls Down”, could be hits.
or at least played on the radio.

But don’t get too comfortable because there are some weird moments lurking,
like “Ants”, with it’s odd mix of acoustic guitar and electronics.

Todd claims “Monkey Head” was an effort to achieve a dramatic effect similar to that heard on
the Genesis song “The Musical Box”, which Bob had recently turned him onto.

Todd’s brother Tim is also in the band, he wrote the music for,
“Bad Baby Blue”, “Letters From A Witch” “Hot Water Wine” and “Ants”,
which he also plays guitar on.

There are some cool rock songs stashed away on “Gringo” like, “Bad Baby Blue” and
“The Gasoline Drinkers”,
which sounds like another Pollard song,
the part,
“Gasoline Drinkers oh no”.
I recognize it but can’t figure it out,, anyone know the song?

“Gringo” is another great Circus Devils album,
a nice break after the chaos that was “Ataxia” and
the calm-before-the-storm of the madness of the next album,
“Mother Skinny”