The Hand

Sad Circus Clowns

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For the Hand's final album, it sounds as if the trio's two songwriters, Church of Betty's Chris Rael and Johnny Society's Kenny Siegal, simply divvied up all of the leftover songs they had that didn't fit their usual bands and put them down on tape. The results are, understandably, uneven. The opening "Vinegar Cocktail" sounds like nothing so much as classic early Sparks, circa A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing, with the same odd imagery, crammed-to-bursting lyrics, and histrionic vocal style. After that outstanding opening, however, the album gets progressively spottier, leaping from the tongue-in-cheek "Golden Melody" (which sounds like the Residents having a crack at the Presbyterian hymnal) to the Yo La Tengo-like "Tijuana Holiday" to weaker efforts like the overlong and plodding "Delicious Pain." "Fruit on the Vine" is an early version of the title track of a later Church of Betty album, and some of Rael's other songs were also stripped for parts. Die-hard fans will enjoy much of Sad Circus Clowns, but it's not at all essential.