Robert Pollard and the Tobias brothers have been releasing material together under the moniker Circus Devils for about 16 years now. In that time they’ve managed to release 14 albums, with this new release, Laughs Last, being their final one. The album is another art-rock piece with an unidentifiable amount of elements from other genres, which is to be expected from Pollard and the Tobias brothers. The album is set up in traditional Circus Devils’ style with many short songs, all spanning a variety of topics, tone, and timbre. Its other half, Laughs Best, accompanies this release, which is a 30-track compilation/32-track DVD.
Laughs Last is filled with Pollard’s witty lyricism and that Circus Devils’ sense of humor. “End of the World Ice Cream” is an obvious spoof of R.E.M., and Pollard says, “Hey Pops! Make it snappy. Frost man, make it quick. Make it sweet and sappy, lay it on real thick. Sugar-coat with ‘sugarettes’, candy coated cigarettes. End of the world ice cream, everybody’s sick.” Is there any meaning in those lyrics at all, is Pollard rambling, or did he perfect that satirical humor through lyrics? “Get Out of My Way” is a bent-out-shape western-rock track with a noisy psychedelic twist, the sound and humor standard of other Circus Devils’ material. In, “Teenage Rooster,” Pollard describes the sad yet hysterical ballad of some degenerate teenager in which he creates similes between this “loser” and a rooster.
Every Circus Devils album has to have at least a few tracks that have a more universal sound to them, and “I Do the Nixon” is one off of Laughs Last. It sounds like The Who through a 90’s filter, and aside from the humor, the overall melody and rhythm makes this track one of the more down to earth song structures on the album. The other more palatable track is “Crucified by the British Press,” which is an acoustic-rock story about the many things that were said about the Circus Devils over their time together, and how they were stamped with failure by the British press. It has a feel of, “Screw you, we had fun.” What better way for the Circus Devils to wrap up their career?
As far as a Circus Devils’ album, Laughs Last is standard in that it is filled with short-lived tracks, humorous lyrics and demeanor, and an array of sounds from different genres. That being said, as a farewell album from the group, the fact that they kept it fairly standard and similar in structure to their other works speaks ions about them as artists. Circus Devils, from its beginnings, seemed to be a more light-hearted project; not just for artistic purposes, but for fun for Pollard and the Tobias brothers. And with keeping their crooked heads on straight with their last release, it shows that they would like Circus Devils to live on in a non-serious manner, and that it is okay to be humorous and enjoy life sometimes.