Indicative of the increasing apathy toward traditional guitar bands, Scottish quartet the View became the poster boys for skinny-jeans indie with their 2007 Mercury Music Prize nominated debut, Hats Off to the Buskers, yet their follow-up, Which Bitch?, came and went without anyone really noticing just two years later. Hoping to steady their rather rapid decline, their third effort, Bread and Circuses, eschews the rather self-indulgent experimentation of the latter in favor of the rousing student-friendly rock of the former on a more focused and uncharacteristically sober affair that saw producer Youth (the Verve, Primal Scream) ban the notorious party animals from consuming any alcohol during its recording. The band hasn't completely abandoned its penchant for the bizarre, as evident on the kazoo-led oompah band finale "Witches" and the faux-inspirational spoken word intro from anarchic poet John Sinclair on the bravado-fueled "Best Lasts Forever," while there are unexpectedly brief flashes of synths on "Sunday" and disco-funk on the anti-religion tirade "Friend." But for the most part it's business as usual, as frontman Kyle Falconer wraps his distinctive and often unintelligible Highland tones around tales of life on the streets of Dundee, accompanied by an array of swirling guitars, ramshackle rhythms, and singalong choruses. "Underneath the Lights" is a raucous Fratellis-esque knees-up based on the suitably hedonistic theme of pulling a groupie; "Tragic Magic," a festival anthem in the making complete with waltz breakdown, recounts a weekend drug binge; and "Girl" is a pub rock hoedown that deals with an irritating and weed-thieving neighbor. So despite its teetotal circumstances and the orchestral torch song "Life," an emotive dedication to Falconer's late mother that sounds like a potential X Factor winner's single, Bread and Circuses does little to dispel their mischievous gang mentality reputation. It's not particularly big or, indeed, clever, but it's a return to form that might just stop the rot, even if it's unlikely to reverse their fortunes dramatically.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien