This group of seemingly thrown-together Detroit journeymen — including Greasy Carlisi and Gary Adams of Dark Carnival, Skid Marx of Johnny Thunders' band, brothers Derek and Sean Murtagh of Troubleman and Margaret Dollrod — was assembled by frontman Mike Jtone back in 2005. They've since cemented their name into the MT gig listings on an almost weekly basis by playing every toilet and street fest the city has to offer. Their live shows are generally a riot, with Jtone usually indulging in some sort of crazed behaviour involving beer. Or blood. Or both. On this debut full-lengther, however, the band members have to stand by their songs alone, with no visual excitement to cover the flaws.
The kindest thing that can be said about Jtone's voice is that it's distinctive. On a less charitable day, it could be said that his howls resemble the sounds of a mentally challenged gentleman having an orgasm. His band is as tight as can be expected, although there's always the nagging idea that these musicians have already seen it all and are just turning out for one last paying gig.
So, with all that said, why is Circus Boy so damned listenable? Well, for one thing, the songs as catchy as all hell, blessed as they are with the most simplistic and repetitive of riffs and melodies. "Suicide Note" is the best example: Its chorus repeats the song title over and over and over again. Their version of the Dead Boys' "Detention Home" is enjoyable enough for a straight cover. But it's the opening "1974" that really spells out this band's charm, with its references to the MC5 and other local legends.
Ultimately, Circus Boy is the musical definition of Detroit. They're dirty. They're needy. And they're extremely ugly. But just try staying away. This album stinks ... and gloriously so!
Circus Boy plays Saturday, Jan. 24 at the New Way Bar, 23130 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-541-9870.