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Circa: Now!

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Album Review

Circa: Now!, Rocket from the Crypt's second album, represents the toughening up and expansion of the band's sound. Never content to play their punk rock by the book, they used dynamics, songcraft, and the sax of Apollo 9 to add texture and power to their rock-hard guitar/bass/drums foundation. The album was recorded as the band was barricaded inside an L.A. studio during the April 1992 riots that tore the city apart. Some of the songs like the frantic "Killy Kill," "Short Lip Fuser," and "Dollar" are back-to-the-wall rockers that sound like the work of a band in the middle of something heavy. Elsewhere, the bandmembers show they aren't afraid to get melodic on the Soul Asylum-influenced "Hairball Alley." They aren't afraid to strip the guitars back and get atmospheric, either, as the Brill Building punk ballad "March of Dimes" illustrates. The truly epic track on the album that pointed toward the brilliance of 1995's Scream, Dracula, Scream! is "Ditch Digger," a track with amazing dynamics and a bullfighter's bravado that actually threatened to become a hit in the crazy post-Nirvana daze of 1992. Speaking of post-Nirvana madness, after Circa: Now! was released on Cargo/Headhunter, the band became the subject of a frantic major-label bidding war that Interscope won after throwing a ridiculous wad of cash at the band. They sent the band in to record more songs for the imminent re-release, but without telling them rushed it out before the songs could be completed. The 2004 reissue on Swami adds the four songs and some liner notes by Speedo that really give a sense of how crazy the recording of the album was. The bonus tracks lack some of the power of the original album but are a nice addition, especially "Flight of the Hobo," which has an epic Styx gone punk feel. The other three are short and simple punk tunes. If you never managed to catch on to RFTC at the time, this reissue is a fine way to get acquainted with the group and their powerful and imaginative sound. It isn't their best work — Scream, Dracula, Scream! takes that honor — but it is an album that will help clear out any lingering post-grunge hard feelings about the early '90s with a blast of good old-fashioned rock & roll energy.


Formed: 1990 in San Diego, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Pledging to never play a venue with a stage, singer/guitarist John Reis formed San Diego's Rocket from the Crypt in the summer of 1990 after becoming disillusioned with his then-current hardcore punk band, Pitchfork. Bassist Petey X, guitarist N.D., drummer Sean, and backing vocalist Elaina joined the band's initial lineup, and Rocket from the Crypt released Paint as a Fragrance in 1991. While the debut increased the band's profile, a lineup change ensued as Sean and Elaina left the San Diego area....
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