self-titled – Circus Mind
There is something positive to be said about brevity when it comes to
music. Such a thought entered my head and bounced around as I was listening
to the second half of Circus Mind’s debut.
Although, the eight members may be based out of New York, the foundation
of the sound they create is pure New Orleans funk, descended from the
Brothers style of smoky, gritty grooves. It’s not much of a surprise that
Cyril Neville gives his artistic blessing by appearing on two tracks. Now,
Circus Mind doesn’t imitate the Nevilles. They’re a source of inspiration as
the members flavor the music with elements of ska ("Home Base") and hip-hop
("Ground Zero") that infuse sparkling bits of magic during the album’s first
The subtle mix of styles into the funky musical gumbo loses steam shortly
after the Steely Dan-esque "Spy Boy." Not meaning to single her out, but Jen
Durkin’s vocals on "Waiting to Be Saved" do not add the necessary growl that
the song deserves. That’s exhibited by CM’s Mark Rechler on previous tracks.
At this point, it seems as if the songwriting loses some focus due to the
attention paid to influences rather than skillful use of incorporating them.
Durkin does sound much better as an integral part of "Plant the Seed," which
happens to be during the album’s earlier portion.
And sorry, but "Organ Grinder" and it’s chorus of "She’s an…" (get it?)
just sounds too frathouse party to be linked next to the other more inspired
numbers. Even its reggae groove is a little lukewarm. What’s best about the
song is the guitar solo at the four minute mark. Its jamming nature and
displays where Circus Mind can go in concert and, hopefully, a taste of
what’s in store in the future.
The Rebirth Brass Band liven things up on the final music track, the
aptly titled "ReStart," but the inclusion sounds like an enthusiastic
afterthought that doesn’t fit with what’s been musically sculpted over the
previous 60-plus minutes.
It’s as if Circus Mind got carried away in their enthusiastic burst of
creativity and consequently lost some of the initial focus. There’s a lot to
like about Circus Mind, just not all of it.