CIRCLE ONE: Patterns of Force: LP

May 04, 2010

Circle One—with John Macias’s vocals drenched in oil slicks of reverb—is like convincing someone to listen to the Dead Kennedys or Cypress Hill for the first time. It sounds like a band fronted by a cartoon character toying with opera… and it can be a jarring experience. When “The Gospel” and “Our Sword” kick in, you realize, “Oh. Fuck. They’re Christians.” Yes and no. John was deeply religious. He also had grave mental problems that would tragically end his life in Santa Monica after being shot multiple times after throwing someone over the side of a pier. There’s also the gray area of John’s cult-like personality, the violence (to others and himself) and The Family’s gang tendencies and tactics. So, yeah, Circle One is a cryptic, paradoxical band that doesn’t unravel cleanly. They’re more like a chunky candy bar left out in the sun. No matter how you try, there’ll always be a bit of a mess on the wrapper, but it’s still worth the effort. Also, unlike ninety-nine percent of East L.A. bands, Circle One actually released vinyl when they were an active band, which was no small feat. Originally released in 1983 by Upstart Records, Patterns of Force was never that easy to find. But with Mass Media and Puke N Vomit co-releasing this re-issue, it’s much more than just an artifact. It’s a fascinating and powerful snapshot of a time in punk in a place that didn’t get much attention compared to other bands—Black Flag, Circle Jerks—just fifteen miles away. If you’ve never crossed paths with Circle One or if you’re in the doldrums of listening to the same twenty-five “punk favorites” albums in your collection, this comes highly recommended and remains to hold its own distinct personality over twenty-five years after its initial release.

 –todd (Mass Media / Puke N Vomit)