Circle Gets the Square
Reviewed by Mike Mosher
Thursday, March 11 1999, 9:17 PM
Paul Lynde is back! He's all over Psywarfare's music and debut CD jacket. The album's title, Circle Gets the Square, similarly evokes Paul's final roost on Hollywood Squares. I recall him fondly as the snide warlock uncle sneering to his niece "Oh Sa-MAN-tha!" on Bewitched. I also remember him pictured poolside in a caftan, shortly before his death, opining to People magazine about how "fags killed Judy Garland," because he was determined to keep his own sexual orientation under wraps.
The late Mr. Lynde guests on the first cut, yammering "Oh, those midgets...Wild!" over an invasive audio jackhammer. The credits note that this cut also contains a sample of the voice of painter Francis Bacon, a much grimmer homosexual artist of note who may have set the cut's musical mood before he died. (Bacon reappears later on, giving even-tempered answers to an interviewer on cut number fifteen.) Yet "Oh, those midgets...Wild!" ends in a cascade of viscous bleeps that approximate Paul Lynde's oleagenous unctuousness, for the dude truly oozed.
The second cut, "I Have a Tummy Egg," features recordings of a baby gurgling and yelping. "Hey! Throw Away the Ocean," adds some tinkling Sun Ra-like piano to vocals by a fellow who goes under the name of Snakedick, treated like a cowboy poetry festival reading broadcast by a weak radio signal. Of the disc's most traditionally musical cuts, "See You Before Seventeen" is the most conventional sounding rock number, with a 4/4 beat and CD cover girl Lisa Covelli's vocals damaged by waves of distortion. On the song "Rubber Room," the infamous godfather of noise, Boyd Rice, drives the psychotic nature of Circle Gets the Square home by murmuring to himself while shaving beside what sounds like a surging washing machine.
Even with Rod McKuen vocal samples added, Circle Gets the Square's problem is that too many songs pitter away in a quiet and unmemorable manner. To compare them to other machine-driven sound-benders, I missed the subtle dynamism of Chris and Cosey, to which many of the songs on this record refer; or the unabashed art school noise work of early, more experimental Destroy All Monsters.
It's as if Psywarfare, only moments before entering the studio, discovered ambient records like Brian Eno's Music for Airports and decided that the lesson to be learned from them was that it's legitimate to disregard artistic distinctiveness altogether. Their mentor Paul Lynde, always the showman, certainly never left an audience so perplexed. Maybe that's why Lynde, along with Psywarfare's other sampled guest "vocalists," are so necessary to this album.
Circle Gets the Square is a Vinyl Communications release.