Tuesday 7 July 2020

Retro Reviews: Circ - Love Electric

It's been a long time since I did one of these, and I've also been holding onto this release in particular for just such an occasion. So with that, let's take another trip down memory lane with another album firmly in that earl to mid 00's electropop revival scene; think artists like Fischerspooner and Ladytron mostly. Circ is a duo consisting of Alexander Perls & Madelin Lane (better known by her stage name, Madelin Zero), much like Golden Boy & Miss Kittin, they only have the one album and a couple of singles to their name, having gone off and done their own solo projects afterwards, with Circ ceasing to be in 2005. And you know I love to talk about semi-obscure one release acts from 20 years ago. Let's get into it after the art.

Not to overuse comparisons much but the Golden Boy & Miss Kittin one rings true once more, Circ's biggest hit is Destroy She Said, though unlike Boy & Kittin it didn't hit number 1 in the dance charts or anything. And part of that is the dated nature of it, which sounds obvious speaking from the far off year of 2020 but there's an interesting tale behind that if you'll hear me out. See Destroy She Said was originally recorded in summer 2001, and if the rumblings on the internet are to be believed the single's release was delayed after 9/11. Lots of pieces of media were affected by that day, but it was definitely the right choice to make here, given the opening lines are "Like towers falling down".

Do I think an earlier release would have made it more popular? Maybe, it certainly would have found more contemporaries in terms of sound that's for sure. By the time of the album's release in 2004 it would have already been showing it's age, never mind how it sounds now. Still, as I've said in other overviews of releases of the era, I have a certain fondness and maybe a hint of nostalgia for tracks like this, they're very evocative of the era. That and you all know I have a bias to anything of this kind of persuasion, I think Madelin's vocals twin excellently with the production on this album throughout, and Destroy She Said is the prime example.

Unlike other retro reviews I'm going to be jumping around the tracklist instead of going in order, for some reason the digital release and Spotify version has a different tracklist than the CD you see, this one was fittingly the final track on the original CD release. Jumping back on the comparison train once again, it's tracks like this that made me make that Fischerspooner/Ladytron comparison in the first place, definitely more 'Spooner especially here; they're both of that school of smooth electronic with surprisingly visceral and a smidge depressing lyrical content (like ADULT. in that respect too, now I think about it). There's an almost electroclash feel to this one too, a track about the post-party depression like this one wouldn't go amiss there.

While I do like the sound of the above two, the album really shines on other tracks. The title track (curiously retitled Electric Love on the re-release) plays out almost like slow Drum & Bass; like a more upbeat sounding but slower tempo Everything But The Girl. It certainly feels more modern than the previous two at any rate. Madelin's vocals work excellently here too, dare I say better than on Destroy She Said (But that's to be expected given the ~3 year gap between the recordings). I think the main issue is it's not as memorable as the others without that edgy side to it, but it was still released as a single which I think was a good choice.

Somewhere is actually the first track I checked out way back when after Destroy, and it very much reminded me of Felix Da Housecat's Devin Dazzle & The Neon Fever, doubly so when the same Mac text to speech voice from Felix's Watching Cars Go By makes an appearance on one of the breakdowns here. Tracks like this aren't going to blow you away but I think they're well made, and putting my obvious nostalgia bias aside for just a second, being of that electopop revival makes them very listenable. This album isn't going to be a challenging listen, it's more often than not by-the-numbers House. But sometimes that's just what you need.

One thing I will say about this album is that the choices in Singles are impeccable. You have Destroy leading the charge, with Love Electric capping things off which leaves Close Your Eyes in the middle. Does that mean it's forgettable? Absolutely not, it almost stands alone in terms of sound on the LP and seems to have been designed with being a great single in mind. The overall thing gives me very Chemical Brothers vibes (Who coincidentally also have a tune with the same title from Push The Button!), even down to the guitar-y backing on the choruses. The standout moment though is that incredible and obviously euphoric trance inspired breakdown around 2 minutes in. It's a little out of left-field for a track that until now was a distillation of the era's 'dance music' sound, it's an incredible addition and makes me wonder how this LP would have sounded with a little more of that influence throughout.

Closing out with a token slow jam as was mandatory to release a dance music album at that time. It's not the album closer on either version but I think it would have worked well as one. It opens with the same Mac voice as Destroy She Said curiously enough, before giving way to twinkling arpeggios and lonely piano stabs. As always Madelin's vocal contributions very work well here, if anything they're the main focus here, though that focus only highlights that there is some.... questionable delivery of some lines, especially towards the end.

And that wraps that up, as I said before I'm not of the opinion that this album is incredible or anything but I do like it. At any rate it's an interesting curio of it's age that's fun to revisit, but maybe if you're like me you'll appreciate it a little more. To re-use that food analogy that I like to drop in all so often; you can't have the finest steak for every meal, sometimes you just want some comfort food. I'm a firm believer that all media is the same way. I appreciate you reading my thoughts on a very old album and hope you are keeping well. As always: Stay safe and enjoy the music!


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for this review. I'm listening to this album for the first time while reading your review, and certainly appreciate and understand the nostalgia factor in a variety of ways.

I think on Pandora, I stumbled on 'Destroy She Said' maybe in 2008 or so, and fell in love with it. I bought the single, but never checked out the album. I decided to recently, and bought the album just today; many, many years too late!

I was in college from 2000 to 2006, and listening to this album just takes me back to those younger, more simple times in some ways. It's very rare that I like every single track on an album, but I'm finding myself enjoying every one. While I already knew Destroy She Said, I'm realizing how much I love some of the others; right now, 'Somewhere' is close to bringing a tear or two to my eyes to be honest :)

Anyway thank you for this review. A pity these two never continued their collaboration. Or, who knows, maybe it's for the best; they produced this simple, carefree gem of an album, and that's really what matters.