Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Escape (2014)

(2014, Happy Jack Rock Records)

The Brothers Tobias and Robert Pollard return for another addition into the never ending, prolific run of Circus Devils mayhem. Except, unlike almost all Circus Devils' affairs, this is a FAR cry from mayhem. Not only is it the most subtle recording Circus Devils has released since Five, it's one of the most subdued efforts of Pollard's dense career. Escape mostly finds itself wondering around in the less-is-more landscape, and it proves gratifying. 

Even the release of Escape felt hushed. The LP, printed in a small run of 500, came on the scene with a whisper and little fan fair behind it. However, do not be mistaken. There is a lot to cheer about (albeit, quietly) on this beautiful slab of wax. Circus Devils lives. 

Thin Escape-  Oh yes, there it is. The obligatory, ethereal mood synths. Pollard jumps in to make a brief vocal appearance. It's not your average Circus Devils intro, throwaway track, but a haunting, hooky blip, setting the mood properly. 

The Big Strong Sea- Repetitive acoustic plucks in a lullaby or McCartney pop ballad style. Doubled vocal section is flat out melting. This one has it all. Less is more. Brilliant.

Eye Mask Of Leaves- Oh, hey look. GBV is back! Straight up airy, garage pop. Is that Greg Demos doing them there high bass slides? Nah, but damn this is a catchy, throwback piece that could have fit comfortably on any GBV reunion LP. 

To Be So Welcome- A church organ on the fritz or synth hooked up to a wah pedal open it up, as Pollard delivers a rather deadpanned, but haunting vocal melody. Short, strange, sweet.

Animals Are Alarm Clocks- So sparse, beautiful, perfect. Brittle lead guitar line held together with melodic acoustic guitar, excellent vocal melody, and postmodern poetry. Another short glimpse at brilliance.

Demons Of The Purple Subway- A straight up instrumental track reminiscent of late 80s college rock. Has a rudimentary Mission of Burma feel to it. Bleeds into "Hacking..." Cool song, but where's Pollard on this one? 

Hacking At a Hedge- 2 Pretty bummer track with doubled vocals, as Pollard speaks likes the delusional wizard he is. Pretty par for the Circus Devils course, but flat.

They're Not Real Honey- 4 Laid back, jangled affair. Thoroughly bizarre. Sounds like Pavement filtered through the dark end of the looking glass. Pollard gives a strong, but fairly average vocal showing. 

The Gravity Test- Acoustic guitar skeletal track backed with woozy synth ambiance and an endless wall of Pollard reverberating talking. 

Play Alice- Piano, acoustic guitar call and response, like a metronome, hammered out eerily and dauntingly. Great instrumental leads us out of Side A.

Bouncing Of The Dolls- Icy, guitar wobble with sparse, plodding bass and some unispired Pollard. This real drag opens up side B.

The Night Of Anything- Oh shit, we're getting into looping burps territory? Thankfully it cuts out, and we're graced with sounds of shifting radio dial tones. Pollard delivers lo-fi radio style voice overs, while stopping to nail some simple, yet catchy vocal melody. A bit messy, but pretty awesome. 

Bouncing Of The Heads- Is the belt of my record player finally dying? Nope, everything is fine here. Plodding to warped speed. This is the most Circus Devils as the LP's reached.  Grating and mystic. Cool stuff.

Draw a Flag- Another instrumental track!... They just keep popping up. Short, minimally lush piece. Bleeds straight into....

Eat At Eat- File under head scratching Pollard titles. Beyond that, this song is one desolate, left for dead track. It's a real glum, cry for help type, but powerful. A bit of of light begins to show at the end of the song, but we never quite see it. Proceed but don't overindulge. 

I Am Looking- Yet another instrumental track. Damn, Pollard keeps running out for more beer? Oh no, there's Pollard simply hush-singing the title, "I am looking." Anyway, this acoustic snippet helps bring some lighter peace to the side B, and is simplistically well done in its execution. 

The Result of a Smiling Man- Wailing, classic Pollard pop bellow opens this up. Kind of meanders off into warped 70s territory, before coming back to a potent, repetitive layered vocals finish. So much potential just missed.

Diamond Boys- Stripped down for parts type song. Vocal and guitar only (mostly). Starts off rather terribly. Pollard is all over the place, vocally. BUT, somewhere after the first verse, it all comes together and this song becomes a hidden fucking gem. One hell of a 180. Sad, melancholy send off. 

Escape- WHAT? Another instrumental. Pollard! Where in the hell are you? Well, it is the last track, and in Circus Devils fashion, an instrumental leads us out. Appropriate, drawn out finish. Feels like a slow walk towards warmer weather. 


  1. worst song is eat at eat, the rest is kinda good !

  2. worst song is eat at eat, the rest is kinda good !

  3. Fair point. It's definitely out there... I was torn with this one at first, but get it. But, yes, this IS a strong LP indeed.

  4. I wonder if the Tobias brothers wrote the whole music for the album cause a lot of songs sound like Pollard to me...

  5. This is a fantastic prog album.