Throw Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, a handful of old-time country artists, and a little Doug Martsch into a blender and what do you get? A big mess of angry old guys? A swaggering Masked Marauders for the new millennium? Not exactly. Instead, the delightful outcome is the Bygones' first full-length, Circles, chock-full of the Ohio outfit's truly fresh take on an old style. Throughout the album, but most clearly on footstomping, slide-driven opening track "The Book," Bill Wagner's endearingly off-kilter Dylanesque sing-speak drives the music forward like the pulse of a percussive instrument, rather than merely floating above the band. In addition to the firey opening track, album highlights include the snakey guitar and vocal interplay of "Under That Spell," the soft acoustic interlude of "Singin' To Myself (and It's the Middle of the Night)," and "Burgundy Eyes," with its easy, down-home feel and chorus so natural and beautiful that you'll want to sing along by the second verse. Not to mention sentimental "Old West End" and, aw hell, suffice it to say there's not a bad song in the bunch. Finally capturing the energy of the Bygones' live shows, Circles is one of those records that you can toss in the stereo at a party and nine out of ten people won't know if it's a new band or a mouth-watering slab of vintage wax, and that sense of timelessness is really quite a charming attribute. Happily, this record includes versions of "Burgundy Eyes" and "Circles" far superior to the lackluster ones on the Burgundy Eyes EP. Unlike the EP, with Circles Wagner finally seems comfortable with his voice, and the vocals are up front where they should be, making for a truly gorgeous round of back-porch heartache.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Karen E. Graves