Often considered among the forefathers (or deadbeat-dads) of what later became “grunge,” Blood Circus was a 4-piece quasi-surf-billy, punk-biker-band, a literal noise-combo comprising of Michael Anderson (formerly of Denver’s Dogmeat & Brother Rat) Doug Day (previously w/Seattle’s Neon Cross) Geoff Robinson (Seattle hardcore band Extreme Hate’s lead guitarist) and Tracy “T-Man” Simmons (also of Neon Cross).
Blood Circus was also considered the worst selling (and possibly the worst ever) band in Sub Pop’s stable, and of course this ranking came from a label that reveled in signing bands whose musical IQ equated roughly to somewhere between that of boiled asparagus and a trained orangutan - with a few notable exceptions.
However, as it is well known, the Sub Pop sound became world famous and made tons of money for pretty much everyone involved except for Blood Circus who, retreating humbly in the latter part of ‘89, preferred it that way - or so they like to claim.
Yet when the rubber meets the road, Blood Circus endures. There is, above all a certain modicum of confused honesty in their work. Almost as if they did not care what others thought about their music. They were playing for their own listening pleasure. As myopic as this may seem, it works in the very small catalog that they leave behind.
Reciprocal-recorded “Six Foot Under” b/w “Two Way Street” (ominously assigned “SP 13”) was the record that convinced Cameron Crowe Seattle was beginning to congeal into a bonafide music scene in the late 80’s. He later went on to include “Six Foot Under” as supplemental music in his seminal chronology of the monolithic superstars Pearl Jam, “SP20” (2011).
“Primal Rock Therapy,” (SP 22) the subsequent follow-up EP to the single release was recorded in 1988 on Reciprocal’s brand-new Tascam 16 track, and while it did not receive the critical accolades of stable-mates Mudhoney, TAD, and Nirvana, it was savagely blunt, and according to the Rolling Stone’s Grant Alden, “did not contain Mudhoney’s sardonic humor and Nirvana’s surprisingly pretty hooks.”
Blood Circus was a working man’s band and coincidentally consisted of four guys who were actually employed supporting families. The songwriting reflects the dreams of workers idled by future-less, monotonous jobs and the tinge of being from the wrong side of the tracks. Songs like “Gnarly Twenty Foot” described the sheer horror, yet gleeful exhilaration of approaching a death-wave, the surfer’s raison d’ etre. “My Dad’s Dead” describes the teen angst of hating yet emulating an alcoholic, womanizing father. “Road to Hell” is an anthem to the roadhouse where one may break on through to the other side.
Sub Pop later went on to release a CD with additional tracks (SP 177) almost in reverence to a mighty era that had wilted badly in the brilliantly gleaming spotlight of the hype-machine that consumed grunge and regrettably some of the souls who were participants.
So if anything is learned from the experience, it must be understood that those ear-splittingly loud and crazy sounds coming out of a garage somewhere near you could actually be an expression of the frustration with status quo, and maybe that frustration is directed toward those artists and music business people who assume that there is a “trick” to honesty. There is no trick. Just play. Just play loud, and most of all, have fun.
“Blood Circus: Primal Rock Therapy – Sub Pop Recordings 88-89” (SP 177) is available on Sub Pop’s website, as well as other online venues.
© Blood Circus, 1988-2011. All rights reserved.