Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
To this day, the mere utterance of the name Circus Of Power evokes immensely consuming vibes of nostalgia in those of us from the older school of rock music.
Some thirty-plus years after they originally formed in NYC, and twenty-some years after they disbanded at the time, one of the most important bands in U.S. rock and roll history is back, baby! As for the newer school’s up ‘n coming underclassmen, I’m sure many have been exposed to the legendary name and output of this iconic entity as well.
At one point, Circus Of Power was on the verge of global domination. The leather-clad, tattoo encased members were signed to the subsidiary of a major label (the Sony-owned RCA) and serving as sole support to entire tours by the likes of Black Sabbath. Regular rotation videos played on MTV’s daily programming and Headbanger’s Ball as well, but sometimes life throws you curveballs, ya know?
Anyway, after disbanding in the mid-90s and taking several years off (although singer Alex Mitchell stayed active in other bands like Plastic Gator Machine, Fat Nancy, and others), the late 2000s began seeing some activity from the band again. Now, that reactivation has ratcheted up and nothing verifies this claim more than Circus Of Power released a new record, ‘Four‘, on December 8th, via Noize In The Attic Records.
If you were there for the first round of releases from C.O.P., then you know what they have always been about: gritty, bluesy rock ‘n roll laced with heavy amounts of psychedelia, funk, and alternative stylings, just to start. They took it all, mashed it up, then shit-kicked it out with an abundant amount of balls and swagger.
Guess what? Nothing has changed! The band’s first new studio record in 25 years, ‘Four‘ finds Mitchell aligned with a newer cast of characters, that includes Billy Tsounis (lead guitar), John Sharkey (bass), and none other than The Man himself holding down the kit, Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Low Desert Punk, etc.) on the record.
If anything, ‘Four‘ finds Circus Of Power spreading their musical wingspan perhaps wider than ever before, incorporating influences that only add to the overall strength of the record. With fourteen tracks riveted into place on this effort, there is more than ample room to build this sucker skyward from the floor up… and that is exactly what happens.
The uptempo, feel-good content of tracks like “Fast And Easy“, “Rock Show“, “Love Sick Blues” and “Come Git Some” are all about the fast and the furious. Getting up, getting down, having a damn good time, and keeping shit real. That latter point is something that has always been stitched throughout the songs of Circus Of Power, past and present.
Mitchell’s ability to tell such vivid tales within his espoused lyrical recitations is mercurially animated, each uttered tittle adding to the unfurling story. Sometimes it is subtly sedate within the number, augmented with wisps of psychedelic flavor such as “Princess Of Mars” or the half-spoken “The Tea Song“. Stark poetry that, while constructed of syllables and words, can only be given a voice by living the actions of hundreds of lives all now relegated into this one.
Clad in the makings of some great American poet like Morrison, Reed, or Springsteen, Mitchel shrugs it all off and stays planted right where the action is. Be it “Hard Drivin’ Sister” or the T. Rex-ish “Hot Rod Girls“, Circus Of Power has always been about that street beneath your feet, the urban underbelly where most see only the ugly and the putrid… but not this band, no.
‘Tis the piss and the vinegar, the bile and the vile that fuels this musical mysticism and the heavier-hewn hitters like “Sin City Boogie” and the groove-fueled “American Monster“. Meanwhile, “See The Sun” or the powerhouse “Blood At Standing Rock” (my own personal fave) is the very epitome of the what-for. No compromise, quarter neither sought nor given, just a band possessed of something that must be expelled, must be exorcised into the everywhere, all about us.
That is what Circus Of Power has always meant to me, visceral rock and roll that is all-consuming. It was back then and by hell, Circus Of Power remove any doubt or suspicion concerning it, or them as a band, now circa 2017. Take the new record, ‘Four‘, for a spin now and see if it doesn’t put your face to the floor. I already know that once you do, you will be back for more. What? ‘Four‘.