Friday, October 23, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Blood Circus Enjoys Reunion In Scene They Helped Create

Blood Circus, opening for Gruntruck along with Son Of Man and Crawl, tonight, Colourbox, 113 First Ave. S., 340-4101. --------------------------------------------------------------- It might make better press - or more sense - if Blood Circus had been frozen in a cryogenics lab.

In 1987 and 1988, Blood Circus and several other bands started playing an ugly, meaty form of rock music which eventually became known as "grunge" rock. They had one of the first records on a then-fledgling label called SubPop, and played with bands like Mudhoney and Nirvana on a regular basis.

Then the whole Seattle scene exploded, and some of the bands that pioneered the "grunge" movement were signed to major labels. But Blood Circus broke up after a six-week nationwide tour in 1989, before grunge rock started to get any widespread mainstream attention. Drummer Doug Day said the breakup came from petty personality differences exacerbated by traveling in a station wagon for six weeks.

Now, three years later, with grunge becoming old hat, with more and more scenesters snubbing Nirvana's success as "selling out," with seasoned scenesters cringing each time Pearl Jam is incorrectly referred to as a "grunge band," Blood Circus has returned, with all its original members and its original sound.

For Blood Circus, tonight's show at the Colourbox will be the second since their reentry into the Seattle scene they helped create. Both Day and singer/guitarist Michael Anderson insist they're just back in it to have fun, although Day admits "making gobs of money is our real ambition." They realize capitalizing on Nirvana's success would have been an easier way to do that, but they don't spend time wondering what could have happened.

"Our timing could be real bad," Day said. "I think we're behind the curve and this just might be the ultimate in bad timing . . . but this is always the type of music we've played. We're not into any big art statement."

Since the breakup, the band's individual members have played sporadically in other local bands, with the exception of guitarist Geoff Robinson, who "just worked in a hardware store," as Day put it.

The reunion, which started this past July, came about when their individual projects fizzled and they realized how much they'd missed Blood Circus. But a catalyst in the decision was SubPop's decision to re-release the "Primal Rock Therapy" EP, their debut single, and five songs from 1989 that never made it to vinyl.

The release, slated for next month under the title "Primal Rock Therapy," is an important document in cataloging grunge history, according to SubPop coexecutive Jonathan Poneman. In his liner notes for the record, he writes, "There are a bunch of you who have scored your Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Nirvana records and think you have the grunge creed covered. No chance. `Primal Rock Therapy' is the acid test."

The liner notes also joke about why SubPop would re-release the record in the first place. Poneman starts the liner notes by asking, "What kind of business people are we?" and characterizes the Blood Circus EP as a record "that not only got panned by the critics but was one of the worst selling products in the history of our company."

But just a quick look at the flyers worked into the record's artwork shows how integral the band was to the history of the scene. The all-ages record release party at the Seattle Boxing Club in July 1988, where they played with Mudhoney and Swallow, was a crucial show in establishing SubPop's bands as being part of a unified movement. And one flyer shows that, a long time ago, Nirvana was merely an opening band for Blood Circus.

Their debut single, "Six Foot Under" and "Two Way Street," was one of SubPop's very first releases, and "Six Foot Under" is the closest thing to a grunge blueprint SubPop has. Starting with a simple, plodding bass line, the song locks into a tight, gutturalpattern, with lines about white-trash teen alienation growled over low notes and pounding drums. If it were any closer to epitomizing grunge, it would be parody.

The five newer songs on the album carry a strange cross-section of influences from punk to country to sea chanties, but "Electric Johnny" is a natural extension of their earlier material, and Anderson said that the material they're writing picks up where the 1989 material left off. They will probably shop new songs to various local labels before the end of the year.

Lyrical topics have expanded a bit from the earlier days to include politics, but Anderson writes most songs about girls or "guttersnipes." "I see things from a twisted point of view," Anderson said. "I'm probably reading too much Jim Thompson and Charles Bukowski."

But don't expect too much reflection on those counter-culture writers at a Blood Circus show. "I think we've always been a band that people could come out to a show and just rock out," Day said.

Anderson added, "We're just meat and potatoes rock-and-roll."

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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