Circu5: Circu5 (2017)

Written by: Kev Rowland

Before I get started on the music, let’s talk about the presentation of the CD itself. What I have in my hands is a CD-sized hardback book, with the disc inside the front cover (and interestingly space for another at the back – what’s that for Steve?), and 28 glossy pages of photos with the lyrics and details of musicians etc. Let’s bear in mind that Steve Tilling, the man behind Circu5, is not an incredibly well-known musician signed to a major label, but instead has put his hand in his pocket to deliver something that in today’s market stands out like a flashing neon sign. Not for him just relying on streaming or digital downloads, but something that the listener will enjoy looking at while playing the album, just like in the old days. Some bands do make the effort (Galahad, stand up and take an immense bow) by releasing vinyl themselves, but it is indeed rare to come across an “unknown” putting this much care into it. So, of course even before playing it I was intrigued.

It is a concept album, detailing the life of a child raised as a psychopath in a secret government organisation, which aims to cure the condition, while harnessing positive traits for certain roles. The character discovers the truth as a dysfunctional adult–with catastrophic consequences. Steve Tilling is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, and he spent five years getting this right. It also features guest performances from Dave Gregory (XTC, Big Big Train), Phil Spalding (Mike Oldfield), Matt Backer (Julian Lennon), Alan van Kleef (Rachel Stamp), Johnny Warman (Peter Gabriel) and Andy Neve (Steve Hackett). Dave in particular in riding high with major kudos in the prog scene at the moment, so by now I guess that everyone is assuming that this is a prog album and you would be right, but you would also be wrong.

There is very much a progressive feel to the album, and the acoustic opener “Coming Home” has a Tull-ish feel, although the vocals are far lighter and double-tracked, and the electric guitar that comes in is very American indeed. But, it took a while for my head to get around the second song “My Degenerate Mind”, and it was ages before I realised that I was listening to the best Foo Fighters song Dave Grohl never recorded. It was at this point that I realised that this album was going to be something a little different to what I was expecting. Given that Steve had been put onto me by Mark Colton of Credo I had automatically assumed that Steve was part of the prog scene, but rather he is part of the “I don’t give a shit what genre you think I should be playing, I’m just going to deliver bloody good songs that you will love: I refuse to be pigeon-holed because music isn’t a pigeon” scene.

The only way to play this album is loud, proud, and with a massive smile on your face. The press release mentions bands such as Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, King Crimson, Rush, Yes, Cardiacs, Jethro Tull, Radiohead, Jellyfish, Nick Drake, Hawkwind and King’s X depending on what section of what song you are listening to, and they’re probably correct. This is a fun and enjoyable album from the beginning to the very end, and if you don’t believe me then listen to the anthem that is “Stars” and join in on the chorus. My only concern is that this album took Steve five years to make, and I really don’t want to wait that long for the next one!

Rating: 9/10

Track list:
Coming Home // My Degenerate Mind // Stars // Days Erased // Strings // Blame It On Me // The Amazing Monstrous Grady // The Chosen One – Baptism // The Chosen One – Transfiguration // The Chosen One – Crucifixion // The Chosen One – Resurrection // The Chosen One – Ascension


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