Durutti's fifth studio album finds the core Reilly/Mitchell/Kellet/Metcalfe lineup of the mid-'80s still in excellent form, steering back from the lengthy excursion of Without Mercy in favor of shorter songs typical of Durutti's other recorded work. While the overall style and mood of the performers had little changed, Reilly in particular remains a master of his art, able to progress and experiment without making a big deal of it, and whose sound remains so unique still that almost any recording of it is worthwhile. Starting with the fine "Pauline," with an excellent viola line from Metcalfe helping to set the tone, Circuses and Bread doesn't radically advance Durutti so much as it codifies it further. One of his most wracked songs ever appears midway through -- "Royal Infirmary," whose combination of piano, trumpet, and gunfire almost seems like a reference to World War I, and which likely influenced similar efforts focusing on that conflict from Piano Magic and possibly even Mark Hollis. Reilly's singing in places is stronger than ever -- while still generally understated and subtle, there's less echo and a clearer, crisper recording quality. In his playing, there's slightly more of a willingness to try more common guitar approaches -- consider the strung-out solo on "Hilary," which while buried in the mix provides a near acid rock counterpoint to the usual crisp shimmer that's more upfront. Metcalfe's lines and string plucks add further fine drama, Mitchell is excellent and varied as always in his percussion approaches, and Kellet comes up with some real winners, like the mournful brass on "Street Fight." Concluding with some lengthy, exploratory tracks, including the minimal progression of "Black Horses" and "Blind Elevator Girl," Circuses and Bread is another Durutti highlight. In a curious footnote, however, it remains the sole Durutti album from the 1980s not reissued in the comprehensive late-'90s remastering/re-releasing program via Factory Once Records. Quite why this is the case remains unclear.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett