Clown Town - The Circus Chaplains (self released)

circus chaplainsI’ve played this CD several times since I received it, and the reason it gets only three bottles is that while it’s really good, it just doesn’t seem to get up and grab me. Maybe that’s me, maybe that’s the production, or the recording on the day. Call me a bastard, feel free, but to me the pace seems just a little too slow, lacking in attack… or something. I can’t quite nail it.

It seems that the imperative a band like this should have has not come out. This happens far too often with recordings (several favourite Adelaide bands who I absolutely loved have released CDs and LPs which seem sheepish rather than roar like a bull buffalo in Kakadu; the worst part is, when a band know the record isn’t up to snuff, they know it and feel bad. The next step should be to determine to do better next time).

That said, The Circus Chaplains (great name, BTW) are one of those bands you can’t quite tell about from just a CD, so today I’d need to see them live to figure it out. ‘Is it Enough’ is next, a ballady thing which I don’t like much - I’ve never liked this style of song, so I guess that’s me.

“Not Giving Up” opens “Clowntown” with a measured, strong Australian rock grind.

“Never Leave Home” is a killer track. The opening coda gives way to a more relaxed, melodic chorus, so we’re well and truly into a band who don’t want to fit any moulds here. That attitude in itself should be enough to get your attention. "Damaged Goods", the last track, pounds along in a style we’re rather accustomed to here in Australia, but somehow … again, for me it doesn’t quite work.

If the CC’s had just stuck to four punchy songs, yeah, that would’ve been too easy. And would’ve made them rather dismissable in several senses. But the four songs here display such a considered breadth of style and content that, although as a CD I don’t rate it hugely (and I feel badly about saying this as I suspect a lot of hard work has gone into making the songs, and somehow “Clowntown” isn’t as good as I think it should be.) I not only want to hear more from the Circus Chaplains, but I want to see the band. - Robert Brokenmouth

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This is a four-track debut EP for a quartet from Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The Circus Chaplains are mostly grizzled veterans from a bunch of bands like the Panadolls and the Kelpies. They’ve only played a handful of shows so this is a calling card, of sorts.

The message is they mean business. Two guitars and a gruff garage sound that doesn't have the slightest hope of landing its owners a spot on Australia’s Got Talent. Two guitars, bass and drums. “Clown Town” is a place found in the middle bar of your local pub, best enjoyed with bleeding ears and a beer in hand.

“Not Giving Up” has a big lumbering feel that matches Phil Van Rooyen’s rough-cut vocal. “Is It Enough” is a one of those contemplative songs the Celibate Rifles do so well. You could mistake the vocal for Damien Lovelock - it has the same world-weary drawl - and sure enough, its owner is his son, Luke, who also plays guitar.

“Never Leave Home” hangs off a cool melody line and a descending guitar figure in the middle eight. Lovelock's limited range suits the song and this one rocks mightily. Closing track “Damaged Goods” swings from a tom-tom beat and another Van Rouyen rough and ready vocal that screams, well, damaged goods.

Production was by Benjamin Salter at Ear Candy Studio on the Northern Beaches. Don’t be afraid to drop the band a line at their Facebook page to get your hands on a copy. - The Barman

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Tags: garage, circus chaplains, clown town, panadolls, kelpies

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