(-record review by General Labor)
“It’s when the woman of my dreams…oh my god, that’s the woman on the floor…” (-Jim Carroll)
I’m a diehard CIRCUS OF POWER super-fan. When Show-biz Al put his brown leather strides from the Motor video up for auction, I was asking myself if we really needed a car. They made anthemic classic rock for the sleazepunk generation. Their first record was perfect, in my book. Song for song, it was better than The Cult‘s “Electric”, Zodiac Mindwarp‘s “Tattooed Beat Messiah”, or Warrior Soul‘s first album. I loved every song, they inspired my smalltown friends and I to put together our first slapdash band of low budgeted, theatrical shock-rock, pancake makeup and black lacey glam, and cemetery loitering guttersnipes. We had a very short run as the flyover state people’s favorite makeup and leather wearing ghoulish garbagemen, but were banned from the bars for refusing to play Bon Jovi covers, so we busied ourselves throwing extravagant house parties and gigging at redneck hog roasts for overwhelmingly Republican bikers who never knew what to think about us, because while three of us could maybe even pass for bikers themselves all garbed as they were in the Mindwarp leather, and all our bodyguard roadies were very menacing and potentially dangerous motorcyclists; two of us were Nik Fiend and Lux Interior impersonator death rock drag queen, gawky androgynes that the Midwestern wrestling teams and preppies and dumbfuck rednecks all wanted to kill. We took many stabs at covering Circus Of Power tunes that always went over way better with the rowdy farm boys and aging VIet Nam vets that made up our core audience, than the Gun Club and Cramps tunes we also raved through, our originals were pretty dodgy back then. I mainly wrote many protest-songs primarily about how we should all have the right to wear blue lipstick and Aqua-Net in uptight church towns. No one outside of Lower Manhattan had ever heard of Rupaul back then, and the rural community suburbanites were furious over Annie Lennox and Dee Snider and Boy George. Circus Of Power were one of the only groups who ever made us mohawked gothniks, AC/DC hicks, and ridiculously safety pinned and fish-netted glam brats always pile into our desperately unreliable vehicles, paid for with Little Ceasar‘s pizza delivery tips and record store quarters to travel cross-country to see them, whenever they were in striking distance. We’d drive 12-15 hours on a school night! When Circus Of Power opened for the Ramones, we had to leave before the Ramones, to speed-demon our way back to Ohio to be at work in the morning, to pay rent on our tiny shoebox apartment, where we drank heavily, listened to records, wooed heavily hairsprayed women who liked The Cure, and dreamed of someday opening at the Lismar Lounge for our supreme metal gurus, Circus Of Power! They were all great guys, who wrote these beautiful and extraordinary, timeless songs about little witches and white trash queens, that connected with us, in a deeply personal way. Their All-American brand of greasy muscle car rocknroll was always equal parts Lower Eastside sleazepunk, heavy for your head ferociousness and Bowery hardcore matinee guts, but with a totally F.M. friendly, traditional pop songcraft sensibility, like Chuck Berry, Hank Williams Senior, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. When some fans put together a tribute cd to them some years ago, my hoodlum-thundering main henchman and I were crestfallen that our drummer was in the hoozgow, prohibiting us from contributing a track. No one thought to do the song we had picked-out, and hell, we ain’t dead quite yet, so I guess there’s even some faint hope that we might still record our version as a loving tribute to our Circus Of Power idols in the future. If we live long enough.
Former CIRCUS OF POWER guitarist, GARY SUNSHINE is a talented, thoughtful, observant storyteller with a very lovable and self-deprecating, bruised romantic, curmudgeonly personality. I can always relate to his hardluck stories and wry humor, we kind of have a similar worldview as weary, tired old fathers, who suck at lawn work. If you are a hardcore, signed on for life rocknroller-someone who’s been in bands, worked for years in dead-end record stores, had their heart broken by the business part of rocknrolll, or watched in horror these past thirty years as the billionaires bought up all the media to bamboozle us into okey-dokeying a police state and endless war, that constantly, abusively, bombards us with no-heart, push-button, advertisement-pop, and mindless consumerist lifestyle programming, his very humane and soulful songs will be of particular interest to you. He’s very eclectic and original, sixties soul, the blues, eighties college rock, heartland Americana, Wilco meets Tom Waits. A sensitive, smartass Dylan for aging gutterpunks. Bukowski as a pop star. He has so much genuine article heart, and an effortless ability to lyrically show you these sonic vignettes that are like little indie-films, the kind that don’t get made too often, anymore. He’s kinda like a novelist who plays really badass guitar. The modern lineup of Circus Of Power continues to churn out tremendously powerful, high-quality, socially conscious rocknroll motherfuckery, but there was something undeniably magical about that initial Alex, Gary, Ricky, Ryan, and Zowie lineup. Crooner Alex Mitchell‘s outstanding writing prowess, humor, charisma, nerve, and remarkable stage presence allows him to attract some of the best players in the rocknroll underground-people like cosmic space wizard, Billy Tsounis, but Gary Sunshine has surprised everyone with his own unique and distinctive solo songwriting, that has a really endearingly charming and down to Earth quality about it, much like Guy Clarke or John Prine, he has chosen the path of humility rather than the path of glory, and the fans have been clamoring for a new CD, so he has generously obliged us. Not everybody who watched Headbanger’s Ball or hungout at the Cat Club or Cathouse will probably like the worndown and torndown, astute voice of experience, it’s the lament of the everyday people, the working class nobodies-all us coffeehouse and truck stop loitering, haunted souls. A true confessions collection of wistful, heartfelt tunes about hangups and hangovers, endless and unstoppable grief, disappointment and regrets, lingering remnants and sad reminders of long gone dreams come true and the inevitably accompanying crash, out of proportion expectations, middle-aged uncertainty, screwtop convenience store wino poems, and a jumbled up clusterfuck, broken hearted, mental jigsaw puzzle of good times gone, scratched out year book pictures, souvenirs, half torn out stacks of stinky old rock magazines, empty cans, coffee cups, front porch rocking chairs, broken lawn mowers, and lost loves walking out the door, but I sure do. This disc is jammed with thoughtful prose and vivid emotions, sweetness and coolness and autumn time lamentations. I can strongly identify with Mister Sunshine-neither one of us are really the same skull ringed, all night rocker, highway storming, hedonistic hell raisers we once were, but people got used to that one dimensional cartoon idea they had of us from thirty years ago, so they seldom imagine the actual reality of either one of us wearing our kid’s construction paper and aluminum foil pirate hats while we vacuum the living room and do more laundry-the early wakeup calls and medications, feeding the cats and making more coffee, packing school lunches and muttering obscenities to ourselves while we step barefooted on little dinosaurs and Legos every morning. He always makes me feel better about my own confused and somewhat still pained and tortured awkward attempts at something like managing all these very demanding and stressful, taxing obligations and adult-hood responsibilities. I’m not very good at any of it. I got arthritis, bad eyesight, bad knees, and a mountain of persistently nagging memories and unresolved desires and torment and abandonment issues, while Gary always manages to find the comic divinity in all that stuff . The title track, “BEER, PICKS, AND OLD RECORDS” reminds me of America’s Greatest Unknown Songwriter: PAUL K. & THE PRAYERS, and if you know me at all, you know, how that is basically, my highest praise. “I should have gone to college, made something of myself…”, sings the guy who toured with Black Sabbath, starred for years on Headbanger’s Ball, played on Guns N Roses “Chinese Democracy” and taught Axl Rose how to play guitar. This is heart wrenching, feelings-charged stuff of intimate pain and pathos, that me and all my mortality-confronting, fifty-something, dishwasher amigos have all come to know too well. “Banging On My Head” talks about the accrued weight of one’s history, hijacked aspirations, unexpected forks in the road, when all your most cherished and beloved dreams are all casually shattered on the kitchen floor, betrayal, let-downs, failures, anxieties, coulda-beens, fuckups, and sadness. “But I Got My Feelings Hurt” is very sweet and countryish, Bob Stinson or Spencer P. Jones style, basement blues-imagine ole Izzy Stradlin jammin’ with Paul Westerberg and Dave Minehan on Mojo Nixon‘s Pabst patio. “Love Turns” is really deep and lovely, like all the best stuff by vintage Replacements. You can feel the acute agony and aching sincerity on this one, if you heard it drunk, it’d probably make you cry. “We Had Gold” is the kind of Tom Petty, Expensive Winos, Juju Hounds or early Soul Asylum type of rocker that all you leather jacket dudes from the heartland, showed up at the VFW Hall, hoping to hear. He’s so good, this one showcases his Stonesy, Georgia Sattelite style guitar heroics, it is both Cheap N Nasty. “Hell” is pained divorcee tears and longing, tenderness, debris, and helpless fixations, beautiful lyrics, beautiful music, he drinks a great big whiskey to us, anyways. “Some Days I Wanna Be Jimmy Page” is the Replacements for convalescent, elderly goths and fops and depressed old gutter dwellers and Motorcycle Boy fans, like cool you and me . “Your Beautiful Life” is a lot like the 500 songs I obsessively wrote when my ex wife ditched for a guy who wears khaki shorts, and my last of the last, lost-cause garage band broke up, again. It has a very down-home, Bob Seger, fireworks, donut shop, and bowling alley relatability to it. “She Hates The Blues”: I remember giving an unbelievably gorgeous woman a Sam Cooke record for Valentine’s Day, way back in my thirties, and her not being into it, at all. At all. Red flag! “All Hearts Break”…if you love PAUL K. & THE WEATHERMEN, even half as much as I do, Gary Sunshine writes songs in that same brittle, broken hearted, humble, ain’t got it all figured out yet, painfully honest, and sometimes irritable state of unrest and yearning and dawn’s early light introspection and hopeless melancholy, he has that very same kindred, tarnished, sad clown, survivor spirit. I’ll be playing this song many more times. I can feel it. “Three Good Tires” …Semi-reformed ex metal-heads, dropouts, castoffs, lost souls, over caffeinated, duty-bound ghosts procrastinating, and wrestling with neurotic outsider worry and dreading the two sink fulls of dirty dishes, afraid the school might call about Junior’s grades again, thinking about The Jesus & Mary Chain, struggling to get through another day. Beautiful losers, capitalist women who turned off all their feelings, smudged up sunglasses while driving at night with pilled-out companions, Leonard Cohen, Towns Van Zandt, Beat Angels, and the Gin Blossoms. He’s sort of like John Cougar with brains. “Young (Ain’t You A Rock & Roller)”. You know the vibe…more hangovers, hurts, Hollywood promises and blue valentines, empty cartons of Carling’s Black Label, ashtray butts, broken guitar strings, unopened stacks of bills, falling in love with the waitress again, all the girls who disappeared, all the innocent years of lighthearted debauchery and carefree tomfoolery and fun in the sun that ain’t never, never coming back, when every little bit hurts. Me, too, brother-me, too. Thanks for making this album.