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coverpic flag US - Ohio - Full Moon 186 - 11/10/11

Circus Devils
Happy Jack Rock Records

Continuing Circus Devils' brisk release schedule of around one album per year since they started as a Guided By Voices side project in 2001, Capsized! is another bewildering and rather fine release from the Robert Pollard stable - but one that's most notable for the musical alchemy of Todd and Tim Tobias.

So, what's the difference between GBV and Circus Devils? Well, compared to GBV there's less straight-ahead riffage and lo-fi pop action, and more atmospheric, abstract stuff. Plus, there are only 19 songs, whereas GBV albums normally stretch to at least, ooh, 20 songs. Pollard's lyrical preoccupations are as abstruse as ever and, of course, the song titles are marvellous: 'Legendary Breakfast Code', 'Aerial Poop Show' and 'Vampyre Playing a Red Piano' are my particular faves.

Although the atmosphere on Capsized! is pretty ramshackle and good-humoured, there are heaps of nifty details and soundscaping that I wouldn't imagine Pollard bothering with if he was taking the helm with the music. Todd Tobias, on the other hand, comes across as something of a studio boffin, which lends this album - and no doubt the other Circus Devils records -a strangely unified feel, despite the stylistic diversity.

It feels a bit like wandering between rooms at a party in an old, ramshackle house. In the lounge room, folks are more upbeat, listening to fuzzy rock records. In the other rooms people are listening to Tom Waits or watching nature documentaries. You wander between the rooms and things feel disjointed and unsettling, but when you look back on the night, you remember it as a really fun time that only makes sense in retrospect.

Copyright © 2011 Tim Clarke e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Circus Devils articles/reviews: Ataxia, Gringo.

© 2011 Luna Kafé