Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster with Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra

Despite the fun-loving feel of the music — like retro ‘60s pop rock gone warm fuzz with an ear for well-placed solos and grooves — the lyrics and themes of Stockholm five-piece Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra’s third album, If Light Can’t Save Us, I Know Darkness Will (Fuzzorama), are almost unremittingly bleak, and that bleakness is mostly self-directed. On opener “If Bars Could Bend,” we’re treated to the line, “I am a great shadow in your life, I bring you down/ I try to make it all good, but my words drown.” On centerpiece and Thin Lizzy-fied album highlight “Little Man,” we get “I need to kill what I’ve become/A dirty fly on golden grain,” and even on the more outward closer “Sad World,” the attitude is still much the same: “We’re sliding down the hole/Somebody save our souls.”

It’s an oppressive attitude that, if you weren’t paying attention to what you were hearing, you might just glance past and miss entirely because the music hardly feels mired in the same way at all. Even a cut like “Mentally Insane,” which shows up later on If Light Can’t Save Us, I Know Darkness Will, and is maybe a little darker sounding musically is nowhere near as dreary in guitar, bass and drums as it is vocally. The dual nature of the release can be looked at one of two ways: it’s either incongruous or really interesting. Maybe it can be a bit of both.

The upbeat country licking in the verses of “Sad World” just don’t match the words, but in a way that makes you wonder why. It’s obvious the band — which now includes Josiah’s Mat Bethancourt in its ranks and worked closely on this album with guitarist Jimmy Ågren — would know that going into the album, so what are they trying to say? Is it supposed to be a sign of hope or a post-modern dance party at the end of the world? Hey, we’re all going over anyway, might as well sing on our way down the falls, right?

Whatever the reasoning behind their lyrical/musical matchmaking, Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra show remarkable presence on the album, each song taking on a retro feel but with redundant moments few and far between. Their sound, more than simply relying on the riffs of Tia Marklund, David Israelsson and Bethancourt (who also all contribute vocals) or the rhythms from Fredrik Jonsson (bass and vocals) and drummer Daniel Israelsson, is festive in a similar way to a less-mystical Bigelf, taking that jovial proto-prog feeling and putting it in their own, already discussed context on “I’m Not Safe” or the more straightforwardly guitar-led “The Monster by Your Side.” “Blissfully depressed” might be a good start to understanding the overall attitude of If Light Can’t Save Us, I Know Darkness Will, but the band doesn’t make it easy or throw themselves headfirst into any one subgenre, stoner rock or otherwise. This too is admirable.

If Light Can’t Save Us, I Know Darkness Will is an oddly engaging and complex record that continues the individualized path the band set forth on their previous two albums, Side by Side and Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra, thrilling and puzzling in equal measure. It may take a couple listens to warm up to, but once transported to the places Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra want to take you, you won’t regret the trip, even if the band is bummed out the whole time. Their pain is our joy, so thanks for that.

Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra on MySpace

Fuzzorama Records

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5 Responses to “Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster with Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra”

  1. Bill Goodman says:

    HOW DID YOU GET A COPY OF THIS???????? I’ve been waiting for this album for quite sometime now. This is one great and highly underrated bands I’ve ever heard. Most people just don’t know how good this band actually is. Listen to “Reborn or Dispear” off the self titled disc.

  2. […] reading:  The Obelisk » Blog Archive » Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster with Dexter Jones’ Circus Orches…. (Very special thanks to JJ Koczan for the kind permission) Share and […]

  3. Deanna says:

    You can get a copy from Fuzzarama Records. It is a stunning album. If These Bars Could Bend is powerful!

  4. […] reading:  The Obelisk » Blog Archive » Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster with Dexter Jones’ Circus Orches…. (Very special thanks to JJ Koczan for the kind […]

  5. Harry says:

    Does anyone know where I can get hold of a copy of there original self titled CD? I’ve been searching a long time with no luck!

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