Circle Pit’s 'Bruise Constellation' illuminates the gaudy subterranean sleaze of Sydney, but it’s also catchy as fuck, writes SHAUN PRESCOTT.
Circle Pit’s first show at the Hopetoun in 2007 culminated in Angela Bermuda apologising to her audience. The post-Kiosk duo of Bermuda and Jack Mannix were supporting Always, and for many people in attendance they were making their debut. It was horrendous, with an utterly smashed drummer, an awkwardly abandoned (and smashed) Mannix and an apologetic (probably smashed) Bermuda. When Always took the stage later on and proceeded to loop his own grunts for 30 minutes the bar staff were comparatively elated.
Rest assured that things have changed rather drastically since 2007. For one, Circle Pit was the anomaly then, whereas nowadays you can’t throw an empty stubbie in inner-Sydney without hitting an anaemic-looking hipster from a reprobate punk group. Secondly, then they sucked, and now they fucking rule. The duo has tweaked their line-up incessantly since that show, and here they’re supported by three members of now defunct Sydney group Atrocities, a change made since their R.I.P Society single from last year.
As with that single, there’s absolutely nothing controversial about Bruise Constellation. This is an album with swagger, confidence and deadbeat rock tropes, but it’s ultimately greater than the sum of its numerous indelible hooks. Mannix and Bermuda are blunt, yet tidy lyricists, who manage to inject life and truth into their starved urban personas, while carefully avoiding the type of excessive role playing that sets alarm bells ringing in the minds of the authenticity police.
“There’s absolutely nothing controversial about 'Bruise Constellation'. This is an album with swagger, confidence and deadbeat rock tropes.”
‘Speed Limits’ begins with Mannix declaring that he’s “young and ready to meet other guys on a casual basis”, accompanied by a riff that advises he already has. This is a song more montage than narrative: fringe-dwellers resigned to their edges, refuge found in Old Crow and Wild Turkey, losers “bashed on both sides of the border” and destructively revelling in the poignancy of being the outcast.
‘Infinity’ is heartbreaking, a lolling ballad of lovers in the city, evoking in its perfect four minutes the vagrant-strewn parks, the back lane toppled wheelie bins, the fast food refuse and pissed-on pavements of eastern Sydney. The song is notable for Bermuda’s sweet backing vocals which, elsewhere (and especially during ‘Hurricane’) sound like the hawking of a Comanchero’s junkie wife. Here they’re quiet, almost coy in their intimacy, and when Mannix sings, “It’s such a heavy world without you”, it’s a tremulous moment.
But it’s the songs that hit at full stride that characterise this record, and for every detonated fugue of a chorus (‘Hurricane’) there’s a song of illustrative verses, with ‘Another Trick’ replete with thinly veiled references to desperate hook-ups and “getting off my head”. It’s got a carefully poised tension that sways uncomfortably between celebration and devastation, a rare song that actually deserves comparison with The Velvet Underground.
Circle Pit is the type of rock band that most others are too lazy to be: aligned closely with tradition but replete with the type of individuality and wit, honesty and intimacy that is usually shed in favour of blindly channelling riffs already written. Bruise Constellation sheds light on the gaudy subterranean sleaze of a Sydney rapidly devolving into a Ballardian capitalist nightmare - all tidy swept streets, pedestrian free thoroughfares and oiled seven-to-when-you-pass-out workdays. It’s also the catchiest record you’re going to hear all year.
Bruise Constellation is out now through Timberyard/Siltbreeze.