Circus Is in Town
The Honky Review - August 2002 It was a warm night in June - I was unemployed, a little tipsy, and walking Virginia Beach with two friends. Stopped by a place called The Jewish Mother - highly recommended by Keri (one of the aforementioned friends). Iask you, is there anything better than a combination deli/bar? Honestly? Sowe took our table, ordered a round, and prepared ourselves for the band. I don't entertain expectations of bar bands anymore - too much disappointment involved, because let's face it - a lot of bands out there are playing bars for a good reason: they're not terribly good. Halfway through my beer, Nick Dastardly and the Escape Artists took the stage. Damn. Any band that can play a couple of well-constructed pop songs and then segue seamlessly into a chunky guitar-laden versions of the Theme from the Jeffersons' has my attention. First, because the original songs were great - second, they're not afraid to have fun. About a month later, I received my copy of their new album The Circus is in Town in the mail. Damn. There's a coffee shop around these parts that advertises: Good, Honest Coffee. I can't help but borrow that and bend it to my purposes when I say that Nick Dastardly offers nothing short of good, honest rock. I'm glad this album reached me during the summer because this is perfect music to crank down the top/sunroof/windows and drive for an hour or so - a great summer disc. Twenty seconds into this CD, there's a feeling of drive - something pushing these songs through the speakers besides electricity and wires. I'll spoil the surprise for you right now and say that my favorite tracks go a little something like this: A Cross Between a Chicken and a Man (1), Just Another Crack in the Dam (3), I'm Not Your Clown (5), The Incredible Self Destruction Man (8), Four Guys Named Bill (10), and Get on the Bus (14). Take it for what you want - those are my favorites, but they're definitely not the only songs on this disc worth your consideration. Nick Dastardly certainly has a style, but it's not something that rules them. There's too many bands out there that sound good for a song or two at a time, but when you drop the coin on the CD you're dismayed to find out all of their songs sound the same. This is something I became familiar with in college radio - some good bands, and others that seem to set metronome for the entire album and refuse to diverge from it! This is something that Nick Dastardly DOES NOT do. There's a definite overriding style that encompasses the songs - a common thread - but the individual songs themselves vary enough that you could listen to the whole album start to finish and not get bored. I hate to use comparisons, but I realize it might help others to picture what I'm talking about - something like Fastball and Tom Petty rolled together with some driving Ataris style guitars. There endeth the comparisons. Nick Dastardly doesn't indulge in any style for too long though - just when you think you have them figured out, they plant a seedlike 'Keep the Ball Rolling Thru the Thick Grass'. A tender, stripped-down song that borders on the fringes of country with a background that sounds suspiciously like kazoos.... What really impressed me is that they had the guts to end the album with a softer and more thoughtful song. My own conventional wisdom would be to blow the doors off the place at the end of the CD, but I guess these guys had other plans when they wrote 'When You Finally Get It Right'. More mellow than many of the songs on the disc, it closes the album out on a raw emotional edge. By visiting their website, you can hear audio clips from most of the songs I've mentioned here. The bottom line is that Nick Dastardly and the Escape Artists are worth checking out if you enjoy some straight-ahead rock with the occasional turn or two.