The Circus have released Sheep, a short EP made up entirely of covers, which they claim are “re-interpretations” although I think the word ‘interpretations’ works just fine. Moving on from semantics, this release is both a good and a bad thing. Good because it’s a novel and fresh idea by a band that’s seemingly secure with their sound enough to conduct this experiment. It’s a bad thing because it gives hope to all those washed up Indian bands that have been around for 20 years or something without a single album release and an impressive repertoire of covers.
The album itself has five songs – two of which are originally by Nine Inch Nails, one by Nirvana, another by Radiohead, and then there’s ‘It’s My Life’ by Bon Jovi (as trendy as it is to shower Bon Jovi and ‘It’s My Life’ with hate, it’s still a song that’s catchy as all hell and everyone secretly likes it so shut it).
Sheep is essentially about the band having all sorts of fun with songs they like. Every song is presented from a Circusian perspective, with the band’s pounding drum attack alongside the weirdly synthetic and liquid bass holding fort while the guys play around with electronics and standard sound manipulation techniques to build large structures within which the songs reside. Where they succeed is that each piece sounds like it’s written by The Circus, and they somehow maintain a kind of uniformity despite the eclectic selection of songs. That’s also where they falter, in fact, as it sounds like they’ve tried far too hard to ‘personalize’ the songs at the cost of foregoing some of the finer dynamic elements of the original versions. A glaring example is Radiohead’s ‘National Anthem’, which loses its thundering eccentric vibe and ends up sounding watered down to like an 8-bit, campy polyphonic rendition.
Confession time: I’ve never been a big fan of the vocalist’s slightly humdrum and predictable vocal delivery (as also some of the more elaborate wankery on the guitars). But on this album, he kicks it up a notch, managing to direct the songs sensitively – without sounding contrived –into the scope of feeling that the band’s trying to project, particularly on ‘We’re in This Together’ (NIN), a song where everything comes together, from the eerie rhythmic interplay to the generously opulent chorus and even the guitar solo, which borders on indulgence, crossing over to the other side every now and then.
Ultimately, the versatility of interpretation doesn’t quite match up to the diversity of selection, but the album works as an interesting concept that’s somehow largely bypassed indie consciousness ‘til now. The songs are charming and engaging, and it’s obvious that the band has had loads of fun with Sheep (which is really just an excellent title for the album).