Album Review: Circus of Power – “Four”
2017 is clearly going to be remembered as a bumper year for biker-sleaze bands of yore making their comebacks. With new efforts already having surfaced from Junkyard and Rhino Bucket over the summer, Circus of Power (a band who I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t even aware had reformed) have managed to sneak in the hat-trick just in time before the end of the year.
For the uninitiated, these New York natives were the East Coast arm of aforementioned movement in the States, balancing out the LA-based likes of Junkyard and The Four Horsemen. Their first two studio albums, 1988’s self-titled debut and 1990’s Vices were both good efforts (especially the all time classic Call Of The Wild), but by the time of their 1993 swansong Magic And Madness they seemed to have lost their direction a bit post-Nevermind, and the result was a sluggish effort which landed awkwardly between stoner rock and grunge and saw them go out with a whimper rather than a bang.
Fast forward to the present day, and frontman Alex Mitchell has put a new Circus of Power line-up together including former Kyuss drummer Brant Bjork, and Four marks their first album in almost a quarter of a century. However, although there’s some nods to the past such as the opening street-rock crunch of Fast And Easy and the closing Come Git Some, what lies between represents a bit of a departure.
There’s a giddy sense of chaos underpinning a lot of Four which is actually reminiscent of late 80s/early 90s Iggy Pop (think Brick By Brick, American Caesar or Naughty Little Doggie), and that’s definitely a good thing. The seasick lurch of Sin City Boogie and Hot Rod Girls and the sinister Tea Song definitely have a hint of Mr Osterberg on them, and show that Four is anything but a bunch of old-timers rehashing their former glories.
Elsewhere, American Monster and Blood At Standing Rock show a political conscience similar to The Cult’s American Horse (Ian Astbury is definitely the other guy whose influence hangs quite heavy over Four) and again show an admirable tendency to strike out with the lyrics. The big hazy twin epics of See The Sun and Flying To LA also have a real sinister hook to them, while weirdest of all is the glammy Princess Of Mars which sounds like something from Bowie’s Aladdin Sane era, yet still somehow manages to carry off something so unlikely pretty damn well. All in all, this may not be what you were expecting from Circus of Power, but it’s got to be said that they’ve carried this change of direction off with quite some panache.
I wasn't sure what I was gonna make of this album going into it, but colour me impressed. It would have been very easy for Circus of Power to simply phone it in and write a dozen or so rehashes of Call Of The Wild or White Trash Queen, but apart from a couple of nods to the old days, Four is a real step forward sonically. Definitely a bit of an unexpected triumph, and a heartily recommended album.