Monday, June 30, 2008

Can't Stand Up Straight In Here The Pipes Are Low

click for enlarged view

In the late 80's there was no band higher on the list for me than Breaking Circus. Like almost all of the great Mid-Western post-HC bands of that decade, they brought a toughness and attitude with them that bore the unmistakable residue of hardcore-- exactly what it took to catch the ear of a stupid ex-straight-edge kid like me-- while writing songs that were flat-out amazing, taking their cues from a whole variety of places: Oi!, metal, Brit-pop, hard rock, punk, you name it. Plus, I doubt you could find any three musicians who were more assured at their craft than Breaking Circus.

Steve Björklund was seriously one of the coolest guys I've ever met. As a frontman, his stage presence was like Marlon Brando and Keith Richards all rolled into one. His lyrics were wry as hell (listen to "The Imperial Clawmasters' Theme" from "The Very Long Fuse" and you'll die), and his musical tastes seemed impeccable. I saw Breaking Circus twice in Boston; once at The Rat, where I interviewed them, and once at a place in Cambridge called T.T. The Bear's. At the T.T. The Bear's show, Steve recognized me as I was walking up the sidewalk and put down the equipment he was unloading to talk for a while, which I thought was pretty cool. During Breaking Circus' set, I shouted out some Oi! song, either Cock Sparrer's "Running Riot" or "Bad Man" by the Cockney Rejects-- I don't remember exactly which one-- but Steve flashed a grin and instantly started playing the chords. I don't think the rest of the band knew the song, but Steve played it anyway.

I can still clearly remember the day I pulled "The Ice Machine" out of my P.O. box; somehow, I ended up on the Homestead promo list in 1987, meaning once a month I'd get a mailer with two new LPs in it, which seemed to be how Homestead's pressing schedule went. I didn't know I was on the list until a box showed up in the mail on the first week of January '87; inside was Squirrel Bait's "Skag Heaven" and "The Ice Machine" by Breaking Circus, two of the greatest indie rock LPs ever. Homestead was untouchable as a label back then, but even now I can't imagine any label being able to flop two records on the table to beat that pair.

Breaking Circus' previous record, "The Very Long Fuse", was more of a mellow, moody affair, so when I first put "The Ice Machine" on the turntable and "Song of The South" kicked in, it served notice that Breaking Circus were ready to rock at this time, thank you very much. And rock they did.

click for enlarged view


Breaking Circus -

"Took a Hammering"

"Song of The South"

"Swept Blood"

"Caskets and Clocks"

"Where"

"Gun Shy"

"Laid So Low"

"Evil Last Night"

(these files are now listen-only)


click for enlarged view


click for enlarged view





click for enlarged view


21 comments:

Joe Stumble said...

FUCK YEAH!!!!

gsdgsd13 said...

That's absolutely fantastic stuff, and yet another band that I never, ever, ever heard. Thanks for that. My mind's being expanded, two decades late.

ib said...

Good shit. Thanks.

You were a straight-edger, Brushback ? I remember hearing some extremely negative things years back about kids caught up in all of this... Damn, I sound like an old hippie parent, don't I ?

jeffen said...

Smart As Comments?

Put me in, coach, I'm ready.

Ignored this band many times in the cheapie bin - this may be the time to go back and ignore them all over again - after all I gotta download some of those fifty cent singles you posted.

You're linked at:

http://musicruinedmylife.blogspot.com/

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

This is great. I'd never heard of them before either. Getting this with squirrel bait must must have been heavenly.

Brushback said...

I'm hoping Joe Stumble's reaction means that I did this post up right.

Greg-- As far as I'm concerned, Breaking Circus rank with all of the other great Homestead bands of that era (Big Black, Naked Raygun, etc). The fact that they've been relatively forgotten sorta irks me.

ib-- Yes, I was a "Youth Crew" straight-edge kid before most people even knew what that was (see the Make It Work post for more details). "Negative things"? Naw, nothing but Positive Mental Attitude, man! Actually, I probably have a few interesting stories from back then that I could tell, but maybe that's for another time...

jeffen-- Fifty cent singles? Come on, I think I paid at least a buck each... Ignore Breaking Circus records at your peril! (thanks for the link, I've actually had your blog bookmarked for a while now)

Chris-- Ain't it the truth...

Nathan Nothin said...

Brushback,

Thanks for The Ice Machine.

I just posted up The Very Long Fuse. The great Chicago underground sound (& Gerard Cosloy's Homestead Records greatness...Live Skull...U-Men, etc) was not really something that should have been ignored.

Long Fuse is only two people & a drum machine, so Steve's move to Minneapolis & hooking up with the Rifle Sport rhythm section upped the sound ante, for sure. I still think that there are some great moments on Fuse, however.

Thanks again,

Brushback said...

The mp3 files on this post are now listen-only (non-downloadable) files. I posted one extra track ("Walter") on my Vox account (accesible through any of the listen-only links) that wasn't on the original post. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to listen.

For those of you who came to the party late, I will do my best to respond to any e-mailed requests for the original files-- just no more than three or four tracks at a time, since it's a bit of a chore.

Brushback said...

Oh, yeah, Nathan-- you're welcome.

Anonymous said...

Hell, I can't get these to play for some reason. Thanks for the thought and the post anyway. Does anyone have the mp3s for downloading? I'd gladly buy the CDs, if they ever bother to release them.

Brushback said...

Once the files are "listen only", you just have to click on the song titles and a window should pop up with the song playing automatically using Vox.

Plus, I generally keep the mp3s on my hard drive, and I can e-mail a few of them at a time to anyone who wants them.

Novemberer said...

Wow, it's been a LONG time since Breaking Circus crossed my mind! Had most of their stuff way back when, but have inevitably (stupidly) parted with it in the meantime (can't hang onto everything I 'spose). Ice Machine was always my favourite B.C. release & it's absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to find these days, is there even the SLIGHTEST possibility you could share the entire LP with us 'cos I'd loved to hear it again? Many thanks for the memory jog... x

Brushback said...

I actually didn't even rip the full LP, just most of the tracks except for 2 or 3 I think. I've been toying with the idea of re-posting all the Breaking Circus stuff (with better rips) as one big post sometime in the future, but we'll see how far that idea goes...

Too bad there wasn't a re-issue of their three Homestead releases in the works, I think it would fit all on one CD...

Anonymous said...

Jesus man, I had to laugh when you talked about anyone anteing up with the release of this album and Skagg Heaven.. Both high on my list of favorites.. I bought them both around the same time and man was I blown away... I actually own all three of Breaking Circus' albums, but Ice Machine is my favorite.. Unfortunately I don't have a turntable any more, just a bunch of vinyl that never gets played since I have replaced most of this stuff with cd's.. Low and behold scouting around I found Ice Machine on Mediafire.. I forgot how good this damn album was.. It pisses me off this stuff hasn't been reissues on cd.. I mean what the fuck? Even the first Volcano Suns albums have been.. I wish somebody would pick these titles up.. Thanks for sharing though.. Man I miss the 80's.. Music was never so good as then... Steve Albini should re band Big Black and show these kids of today what real music sounds like...

Viacomclosedmedown on youtube said...

wow finding some real gems here from the scene...i.e. Breaking Circus/Rifle Sport/Naked Raygun/Man-Sized Action regular shows I saw at First Ave. or the Entry. I think a lot on your list (like the three Breaking Circus) I have posted at our blog Downunderground that you could click my icon to find. Lots O' rare stuff like that Sukpatch 7"--they kind of transplanted to our Mpls. scene from Denver and my favorite station Radio K so I have three of their CD's and yeah, you gotta hear them. Maybe a song exchange? Give me some time here at your site to absorb. Better save before this erases on me..dam computers.

Analog Loyalist said...

Besides my blog The Power of Independent Trucking (Google it), this is the best blog on these tubes of Internets ever.

Where's Arsenal, speaking of drum machine (err, Roland) bands?

Pecota said...

Great blog. Found a lot of great gems that I missed the 1st time around. Is it me or is the driving the dynamite truck really that bad billy idol song?

Brushback said...

Billy Idol has a song like that? I'm pretty sure that Driving The Dynamite Truck is only on a compilation, so most people haven't heard it.... or they've heard the Seam cover version of it.

Pecota said...

Yeah, I heard it 1st as a seam cover or as seam covering codeine covering breaking circus. Maybe I'm wrong but I thought it was the guitar from dancing with myself??
Again, your blog may be the best out there. Turned me on to a lot of great older stuff. Keep up the good work and that pitchfork summer internship is right around the corner.

Brushback said...

Ha ha, Pitchfork.... my 'dream' job