New Jersey’s Shirk Circus plays a curious mesh of Minneapolis-style post-punk and influence-welcoming pop. Considering that the trio’s long-playing debut, Words to Say, was cut as first takes in an hour, the album’s stylistic diversity is amazing. Only the low-budget production keeps songs like “#14 (What Would You Be If You Weren’t Nothing?)” from achieving Paul Westerberg’s dream of being the Raspberries and in a shitty mood at the same time.
The forward-moving March finds singer/guitarist/songwriter Josh Silverman in a creative growth spurt. A glorious riff rises from the guitar bluster on the title track; the tuneful punk of “I Regret Everything” takes a step back — not that the band should regret having recorded it. “Guess Who Came Home Today” is a spectacular mix of 10cc and Elvis Costello; the memorable “Where Have You Been?” is thick and rich, intricately arranged but essentially straightforward. The twin-lead break of “Roses” is a nice touch, as is the Spectoresque percussion in “Everything Beautiful in the World Is Dying.” Give Shirk Circus some time — at least in the studio — and the band might very well record a modern pop masterpiece.