When you think of bands from Glasgow, your brain might call upon gloomy, coal-sooted sounds like Mogwai, or twee-as-heck, like Belle & Sebastian or Camera Obscura.
The Circus Ship is closer to the indie power pop of Teenage Fanclub with maybe a dash of Orange Juice, however, as the Barney EP is a spartan, stripped-down indie rock gem that's too denim and sequins to be twee, but not dirty and smeary enough to be post-rock or shoegaze. The Circus Ship's sound is built upon the basic rock and roll template of guitar, bass and drums with faded, worn-out vocals, somewhat like a Scottish Bruce Springsteen or a less drunk Shane McGowan.
The razor thin guitar tone says most of what you need to know to understand where The Circus Ship are coming from. Clean guitars provide their own type of psychedelia with clear, bell-like tones dancing and meeting mid-air. It's more of a melodic psychedelia, as opposed to the impressionistic sound paintings of shoegaze or post-rock. Imagine the difference between Death Cab For Cutie or The Shins versus My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus And Mary Chain, by way of example.
Clean guitars = precision; worked out arrangements, time spent rehearsing. It's well thought out and well considered. You could also think of the difference between Mod and Punk, as an illustration. The Mods were high as hell on speed and Benzedrine - that music is psychoactive, to be sure, but it's more the sound of getting ready in brightly lit mirrors, of hitting the streets, hard, and sometimes having them hit back.
This determination, this precision, gives way to its own abandon. It's like a dancer practicing for a thousand hours, to lose themselves on the dance floor in fluid abandon. With this precision, The Circus Ship is able to sculpt moods like chemical engineers, as pure melodies rub against each other, sometimes consistent, sometimes acerbic. It's like a really complicated salad dressing with some vinaigrette mixed with some cayenne. They pull it off though: this dressing is effing delicious!
Fans of glammy, cosmopolitan indie rock like The Strokes and The National will find much to love here, as well as classics like The Pixies and Television. Fans of blue collar, working class rock will also get off on this short, five-track EP. The Circus Ship are excellent musicians and craftsmen, which is captured here, gloriously, by Steven Forrest at Glasgow Stow College.
The Circus Ship is continuing in a long line of excellent Glaswegian bands, bringing a number of different but excellent tributaries together on Barney. Expect great things from this band in the future.
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