Friday, June 21, 2013

Sgt. Disco (2007)

Sgt. Disco
(2007, Ipecac Records)

The most EPIC of the Circus Devils albums, Sgt. Disco is their Quadrophenia, their White Album, an Exile On Main Street of sorts; 3 LPs that might make Pollard shit his pants in excitement just by the mention. Do they compare to any of them?  Well... okay. Let's scale back.

Sgt. Disco was, at one time, rumored to be the fourth LP, to be released after 2003's Pinball Mars.  In 2005, however, Circus Devils released Five instead, arguably the most misguided and underwhelming off all the Circus Devils LPs. Sgt. Disco had apparently been put on hold.

2007 finally saw the release of this 32 (!) song, 70 + minute LP. Like Boston Spaceships Let It Beard, the dramatic over-haul of songs sounds better on paper than it sometimes does on record. Still, for some of its short-comings, Sgt. Disco is a pretty strong, psychotic, and sonically satisfying return to form for Todd Tobias and Pollard (Tim Tobias sits this one out for the 2nd straight LP).   

Also intriguing, this remains the only Circus Devils to be released on a label other than a Pollard-related label. Mike Patton's (Faith No More, Phantomas, Tomahawk) Ipecac Records put this out on CD. A limited to 500 double-LP run was released on Happy Jack Rock Records though, for the diehards. Understandably, it sold out in a flash.

Zig Zag- Ethereal synth with eerie minor-chord piano, and anthemic, surreal Pollard vocals. This song is no anthem, by the way. Short and uneasy opener. Well suited.

In Maddona's Gazebo- 5 Sounds like if Nu Metal took a hit of acid, went to sleep, and had a dream it was actually a decent genre of music. Warped, pounding, post-punk nightmare complete with repeated laugh track and minor hooks.

George Took A Shovel- 3 Swampy, bar rock song that's only "Cirucs Devils" touched-in-the-head due to Pollard upfront, dead-pan vocals in the verses.

Pattern Girl- 4  Metronomic beginning into laid back, '70s cocaine/heroin tinged rocker. Period piece slow jam.

Nicky Highpants- Perfectly weird, well harmonized, minimal track. Has a lo-budget GBV feel to it while still rotating on the Circus Devils' axis around the dark side of the sun, if there were such a place.

Love Hate Relationship With The Human Race- 3 Short, cock-rocker that even contains the word "cocksuckers," in the lyrics! Love the upfront, clanging cowbell. This one, essentially, sounds like a Pollard solo cut, said cowbell being the only oddity on the track.

Brick Soul Mascots (Part One)- 4 Slow, hushed opening breaks into pounding drums and thin guitar power-chords, back into murky slowness. Eventually, the track builds back into tight, repetitive outro. Slow, long, and rewarding. 

Break My Leg- 3 Jarringly sparse, cold, dire short opener to Side B. You can see your breath on this one. 

Outlasting Garafalo- 1 Space flange slathered all over the guitars like a thick sauce, as Pollard sings like he's doing a poor impersonation of Eddie Vedder. This song annoys the hell out of me, from its title, to the repetitive bass riff, to the lyrics.

The Assassin's Ballroom (Get Your Ass In)- Tick-tocking percussion with repeating semi-funk, walking basslines with background orchestration like a creaking ship. The music is pretty awesome, but Pollard's redundantly dumb lyrics BADLY hurt the cause.

The Winner's Circle- 3 Ever walk alone through a rust post-industrial wasteland on Nyquil in the dead of winter on your way to an abandoned train station? You have? What the fuck? For the rest of you, this Tom Waits-like, surreal short piece is exactly that.

The Constable's Headscape- 2 Pollard's vocals, the core rhythm track of the song, and the added ambiance all seem to clash. Strong vocal effort is the highlight. Nothing's out of sync, yet nothing meshes.

In Your Office- 2 Crunchy, farting stomp with ringing, distant organ. Pretty minimal, and forgettable. Also, lyrics are subtle, yet creepy... in a bad way.

New Boy- 5 Holy shit. Nursery rhyme fever dream. This is what I feel Circus Devils was predicated upon. One minute long, jarring. If a jack in the box came to life and began holding down a steady job, this might be his theme song.

Puke It Up- 2 38 second instrumental gap track. Blink, or burp, and you might miss it. 

Swing Shift- 5 Cluttered, clacking percussion with distant orchestral string-synth playing a beautifully melancholy, and quite memorable lead line. Pollard delivers some strong vocals, making this the unlikeliest hit of the LP. Catchy, yet cold, sad, and distant. Powerful stuff.

Happy Zones- This is the full Circus Devils envelope, but at 4 minutes, this mood piece overstays its welcome. Sci-fi, looping sound clips, followed by bottomless-pit synth drones, and wizardly organ bits. Pollard essentially does spoken word type stuff.  Depressing as shit.

The Pit Fighter- 1 Sounds like someone's practicing their beginner metal guitar scales on the verses before breaking off into a lame bluesy chorus. Percussion wise, we've got the trusty drums, and a wobbly sheet of plastic being flapped around? Annoying all around.

Bogus Reactions- 3 Reminiscent of a Ween track from the modulated looping vocals to the Captain Beefhart percussion stomps. Pollard fluctuates vocal stylings, but remains strong throughout.

Hot Lettuce- 1 Meandering. First part sounds like drums and a dude playing guitar falling down the steps. Second part sounds like beginner guitar improv solo over smashed drums. Circus Devils take on Zappa?  All instrumental and pointless.

Safer Than Hooking- 2 Plodding bass line over slop post-punk drums. Dank and boring.

Dead Duck Dinosaur- 4 Nightmare machine, see-saw instrumentation with well harmonized Pollard melody. Surreal, nursery rhyme pop complete with killer hook.

Do This- 3 One minute instrumental track. Tribal looped drum feel, repetitive organ riff, and an ambient undercurrent. Great unsettling bridge-the-gap song.

Brick Soul Mascots (Part Two)- 3 Picks up where Part One left off on Side A. Basically the outro of the first repeated into anthemic ending. Reminiscent of early '90s GBV shoestring arena rock cut.

Caravan- Under a minute, and should be shorter. Sounds like Pollard taking a shit on a mystical toilet while the universe suffers from acid reflux.

 Lance The Boiling Sun- 2 Wizards, goblins, and modulated voices abound! Don't actually know about those first two, though. Get ready to get chest deep in needless masturbatory, mystic prog rock.

War Horsies- 1 Washy, dripping synths puddle around the thin bass line, as Pollard sings like a maddened ring-leader. Sometimes worshiping the wrong parts of Sgt. Pepper's... is a bad idea. Did I say sometimes?  I meant always.

French Horn Litigation- 2 Three minute, stare at the wall rock song. Meandering, stoned track that leaves no lasting impression. Just keep staring at the wall, and throw this one away.

The Baby That Never Smiled- 4 Kind of lame, kind of great! Pollard sings a rather strong hook over scrapheap electric guitar strums. 35 seconds long. Awesome! Be alert.

Man Of Square Parts- 2 Sludge with buzzing fart effects. Could've been better if it weren't so short and directionless.

Rose In Parades- 4 A mix of '50s dinner table music and '60 sci-fi with Pollard delivering a Wizard of Oz-esque, melancholy vocal line. Hauntingly solid. 

Summer Is Set- 4 Starts off like an '80s instructional video about using computers. Breaks into pipe organ, circus stomp before going back into nervous organ warping. Suitable way to end this monster of an LP. 

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