Some records are so bad they’re good — the Shaggs’s Philosophy of the World, Half Japanese’s 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts, the earliest Beastie Boys material. That prospect, however, is a best-case scenario for Circus vs. Andre Afram Asmar’s Gawd Bless the Faceless Cowards. At worst, the album is embarrassing and cringe-inducing.
Gawd Bless pairs Circus’s awkward rapping with Asmar’s dubby space-grind beats, which could benefit from a bit more forward momentum but are certainly not the record’s problem. Circus, of L.A. hip-hop combo the Shapeshifters, half-sings and half-raps with a paralyzed flow. Sounds rough already, right, but to further muddy the already-polluted waters, Gawd Bless attempts concept-album status, although the concept is dual and seemingly unrelated — some joints are juvenile indictments of George W. Bush, others obsess on UFOlogy, forwarding the (facetious?) thesis that, as one song is titled, “We Are Not Alone.”
I attended a notoriously left-wing, politically active college, and many of Circus’s sarcastic political jabs feel like the half-baked toss-offs so common at those college rallies: “Fight for your right to be a lazy American,” “It makes me embarrassed to be classified as something so stupid as a lazy American,” “Dear God, please save us from your followers.” I would think a lot of musicians are frustrated with what Bush has dragged America through over the last four years, and Circus at least acknowledges it, but does it with such heavy hands that it results in a fantastical backfire — a poseur-rap classic, maybe.