erasing clouds

Circus Devils, Mother Skinny

review by dave heaton

The bizarre Halloween-rock band Circus Devils stands as the Rodney Dangerfield of Robert Pollard projects, the one that gets the least respect, probably because their music freaks people out too much. It should; across eight LPs, the Circus Devils have created a vivid freakshow world of darkness and demons and general ugliness, with an avant-rock spirit of anything goes and a movie lover’s sense for cinematic detail and scope.

Their latest is no different. It’s immediate, moody, nightmarish, morbid, and darkly humorous. The opening track “Sub Rat” starts as pure mood, and then crashes in with an assault and a promise of secrets: “you’ve got something in the suitcase / and it’s really far out”.

Paranoia is the keyword this time. Everywhere people are trying to get you, to put you in a freezer or a cave. There’s an insect lurking, a germ circus “always around” and “eating up the kids”. The ominous “We Don’t Need to Know Who You Are” suggests a secret society. “They’re always following us / we are all crazy”, Pollard sings in the piano ballad “All the Good Ones Are Gone”.

The music is epic as always, and fierce, with thick heavy metal riffs. If it’s a metal album it’s also a circus album, like Tom Waits and Black Sabbath meeting in a cavern. Sometimes it seems like Circus Devils are rewriting hard-rock history as being all about giant spiders (“8 Legs to Love”)…but wait, isn’t that what it was always about?

Some of this is especially cartoonish, scatological (“Living Necklace of Warts”), or humorous. In one place conceptual art gets its own sexy metal anthem, “Hard Art (Hard All Day”). But there are also ideas in the songs. All of this interest in evil and emulation of a confused mind-state can’t help but seem like a commentary on current events, whether the songs clearly reference something that is going on, like war (“His Troops Are Loyal”, a surreal take on blind following) or on the surface seem like fantasy literature. It’s provocative music in more ways than one. There are plentiful concepts for listeners to delve into, within the music and the lyrics, and at the same time Mother Skinny is a sick, fun romp, an excuse to indulge in the scariest and weirdest of imagery.


this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2010 erasing clouds