PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Babylon Circus: Dances of Resistance

Footage of the group's live performances shows seas of people shaking their arms, and after listening to Dances of Resistance nothing in that picture feels exaggerated.


Babylon Circus

Dances of Resistance

Label: Mr. Bongo
US Release Date: 2008-02-12
UK Release Date: 2008-04-21
France release date: 2004-05-17
Amazon
iTunes

Babylon Circus seems to have started off years ago as a ska band, and then let its sound creep outwards to incorporate other genres. There's reggae in the title track of this album, an accordion in "De la Musique et du Bruit", a cowboy guitar in "My Friend", a jazzy chanson swing in "Interlude Barbare", and various other bits of inspiration grabbed here and there as needed. Excitement: that's what the group is after. It likes speed and change. It jumps and kicks. The lyrics are often political, but there's a kiddieness in its hectic jouncing. There are moments when it sounds as if it should be called the International Too Much Sugar Band.

"Consciousness, invading the dance floor", the band members sing in "Musical Terrorism". They mean a political consciousness, anti-war and pro-harmony, the good people of the world peacefully united by skanking trombones and the tooting, spiralling carousel organ notes that are there to make you realise that the second half of the group's name is more than a cute piece of word association. They really do use circus music.

The tootling organ turns like a cog wheel through "J'aurais Bein Volou", and then other tilting noises appear throughout the album to suggest big tops and barking men in ticket booths ordering you to roll up, roll up, for the greatest show on earth, come and see lions, tigers, elephants, apes, camels, seals, women wearing sparse spangled clothes on galloping horses, marvels strange and rare, etc, etc. In most cases, the circus music is integrated with the rest, but "J'aurais Bein Volou" and another track, "Petit Caravane Barbare", are almost pure circus. They act like extended pauses, keeping us waiting in this giddy interval for whatever is going to come next.

A band with a different character to that of Babylon Circus might have introduced the circus idea in order to make a satirical point, contrasting, let's say, a lyrical picture of carefree entertainment against some kind of harsh political reality, comparing a fat ringmaster to an oligarch, or telling us that the dull masses need circus-like distractions to mollify the rebellious impulses of their feeble brains, but this group seems to be adopting the carousel trill with a straightforward intent. In other words, it's there to be fun. The clown in "Mr Clown" is not there to serve as, say, a satirical portrait of a policeman, and there doesn't appear to be any hidden irony in the lyrics to "My Friend", which really does celebrate a genuine friend. "Such a good man!" they tell us. When they sing about war and violence on "Warlord", then the circus music disappears.

In spite of the circus, the accordion, and the Stateside guitar, there's enough ska left to give Dances of Resistance a definite ska atmosphere, the whole thing kicking along to the sound of brass pumping upwards with that brisk, punching rhythm that seems to be poking you in the ribs -- jab jab jab jab -- until you start dancing around out of agitation. The quick, tip-tilted pace lends it a whiff of the Manu Chaos, but without Chao's vehemence or his whirling sirens.

The musicians, who are based in Lyons, sing sometimes in French and sometimes in English, and it's when they sing in English that their reggae side comes out, or maybe it's when their reggae side comes out that they sing in English. The word 'fire' in "Warlord" is pronounced 'fi-YAH' and a 'slave-driver' is a 'slave-dry-VAH'. The sound of French-speaking people pretending to be English-speaking people pretending to be Jamaican-accented people sounds less strange on the album than it possibly does on screen, and it works.

The politics on Dances of Resistance are sometimes at the forefront of the music and sometimes not. Generally speaking, the members of Babylon Circus are against exploitation, competitiveness, and brutality, and in favour of friendship, unity, and good times. Footage of the group's live performances shows seas of people shaking their arms, and after listening to Dances of Resistance nothing in that picture feels exaggerated. Yes, you think, that's exactly what a Babylon Circus show would look like. Lots of movement, lots of energy, lots of putting your hands in the air and waving them like you just don't care. Lots of singing along to lyrics about peace and fellowship. Something visual to go with the circus music. A ringmaster atmosphere. Maybe elephants.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.