In this spectacular job as a music pundit, there’s always going to be highlights and low lights. Obviously, you the reader were smart enough to read the score coming into this, and you may have guessed that Wild Dogs by Trois-Rivieres, QC prog-rock/world-music act Cirkus has been deemed the latter, in my terribly graphic opinion. The haterade is strong with this one, but it is not without its constructive moments so I implore you, reader, to hang tight for the ride.
It’s not a fun part of my job to take somebody’s art and tell the world I didn’t enjoy it, nor is it fun for me to have to try and make that assessment entertaining for anybody, but at the end of the day no punch should be pulled it if means furthering somebody else’s potential career in an incredibly diluted market. Wild Dogs wins points for a few clear things. Dedication obviously went into this; the band proclaims that this was an entirely self-composed and self-produced effort inlcuding their songs, their studio, their mixing and their mastering. Effort deserves a hat tip wherever it can be found.
However, it suffices to say that some shit just doesn’t fly when it comes to creative construction. For example, an album weighing in at two hours, eighteen minutes, and some fucking change, is for the most part pretty fucking inexplicable (unless you’ve reincarnated goddamn Beethoven and he is on one hell of a hot streak).
The sonic punchline of this act (if you can comprehensively find one) is that it sounds like Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd circa Syd Barrett era (with or without the acid, that’s completely up to you), and your favourite children’s cartoon composer shared a fucking outhouse. These songs are not only excessively long but make little to no sense compositionally, with the added factor of what is either a purposefully (and once again excessively) retro-sounding production value, or simply a poor execution of mixing and mastering stages. The result was a product that took me nearly a week of repeated attempts to listen to completion.
It could be easily said that I have no right to judge because I’m not a fan of this genre (you’d be fucking wrong, but you can say it). But the fact of the matter is that several faux pas occur here. For the purpose of argument, we’ll use the nineteen-minute-plus, Mount-Everest-turned-song called “Dalhousie’s Walk” as a basis for discussion. A song can be long, but it should not be overly repetitive. Otherwise, why make it long? Just cut the excess and leave the tastiest of your fruit for consumption. Various points of this particular song had me checking if I had somehow restarted the fucking thing. There were moments that felt like completion but then were followed by the rebirth of what seemed like almost the exact same verse from not a mere five minutes prior.
A song can sound retro or vintage, but not only does this almost completely defeats the purpose of all the progress made by technology in our day and age, it also cannot be used as a front to excuse poor mastering. In the wake of this entire effort, the string section is almost completely indiscernible, the drums are intensely dry to the point of Lars Ulrich level annoyance (I’ll leave the key section out of this to avoid the unwanted flashbacks), and the vocals are dripping in what is either an attempt at off-tone singing or improper use of a vocoder. Remember ladies and gents, this is why all your favorite bands do re-releases of your favorite albums from the 60’s and 70’s with a remaster.
All of this is to say that the age-old point of music is to be an art form, and art can go in whatever direction the creator so pleases. BUT, the digestibility of art should be guided by a voice in the back of your head. A two-hour album (which is longer than ALL THREE ACTS OF JOE’S FUCKING GARAGE, I MIGHT ADD) is not a digestible product in my opinion. Retrofitted attempts at mastering does not create a digestible product, even if you’re playing at Zappa and Waters level of talent. A self-produced effort is always a valiant effort, but the benefit of another set of ears is insurmountable in most cases.
There’s a universe where something like Wild Dogs could but an interesting listen, but in this one, far more ears and efforts were required than that of Cirkus to make this something the typical human mind could enjoy.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Kate Erickson