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CD Review: Circus Devils 

Mother Skinny (Happy Jack Road)

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Robert Pollard is that he has yet to be associated with an album that totally sucks. The new Circus Devils record, Mother Skinny, keeps the streak going. Pollard's eighth outing with former Guided by Voices bassist Tim Tobias and his brother, producer extraordinaire Todd marks a return to the no-holds-barred heaviness of earlier records after 2009's mostly acoustic Gringo. The album begins with the overt dramatics of "Sub Rat" and the lurching "Lurking." "Hard Art (Hard All Day)" is an arena-rock behemoth, the likes of which Guided by Voices never dreamed of cooking up. With only a handful of exceptions (the atmospheric "Kingdoms of Korea" the spacious "17 Days on the Pole"), Mother Skinny finds Pollard and the Tobias brothers at their most confrontational. At times, it's pretty disorienting, like in the positively evil "Germ Circus." And there's a whole lotta bottom end thrown in to drive the point hom, like in the bass-heavy "8 Legs to Love You." As with most non-Guided by Voices Pollard outings, Mother Skinny is more for fans. Jeremy Willets

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