VIDEO PREMIERE: DEVON WILLIAMS “CIRCUS WORLD”
Devon Williams is a songwriter’s songwriter, dedicated to precision and economy even in a time when the concept of an actual economy is fast retreating toward wishful fiction. With Williams there’s never any windmilling musical equivocation, no attention-desperate showing off, no vacancy of lyric or melody and nothing that isn’t cut to tape (or … carved to SSD?) unless it serves some deeply considered purpose. Some people like hooks but Williams likes a lightning strike—a zig-zag flash that throws everything into silhouette and relief for a moment and then lingers in a streak of color.
This video for new single “Circus World” comes from A Tear In The Fabric, a Madeleine L’Engle-ian title for Williams’ first album since 2014, which despite what the math might imply was actually about 30 or 40 years ago. It’s an up-to-the-minute supercut of footage scraped from top world-wide-web site atrocity-exhibition-dot-com, scything through the news and news-like objects of these endless recent weeks and stacking only the grisliest teratomatic remnants into an unstable monument to humanity’s unraveling sanity.
Feel like you missed anything since you locked in for the clampdown? “Circus World” missed only that graph where the unemployment rate rockets toward infinity and maybe that drone footage of the newly dug burial pit on New York City’s Hart Island, and both of those probably just because of production deadlines. But don’t worry because our contemporary classics are represented in full—blood, fear, riots, hospital beds, flag-clutching, Instagram like-baiting, Kanye, Trump, Palin, that megapreacher finger-jabbing as he defends his private jet and more, all making an intro montage fit for Robocop or The Running Man. (Never forget the true hero of the Bakersfield massacre.)
Clamp your eyes shut and it’s Williams’ characteristically agile Cleaners From Venus-style pop—melody and space mirrored into into each other like a kaleidoscope, a visual effect which probably not coincidentally outros the video. Plug your ears and it’s a test run for the Ludovico technique. It’s probably too much to connect a song this precisely put-together to Flipper’s abyssal monstrosity “Ha Ha Ha,” but “Circus World” still makes you think: isn’t life a blast? Says Williams:
“With ‘Circus World’ I was having a lot of one-sided conversations, and my head kept spinning around in circles. But the world kept spinning and when I stepped out of my head, I felt out of touch. It’s sort of a tightrope between being lost in thought and then just floating through the world without looking for meaning. ‘Circus World’ is just feeling like everything is absurd, and finding the humor in it makes it a little more palatable. Am I a joke for always trying to find to humor in the world? Or is the world full of clowns? Really, it’s tough to decide when the joke has gone too far. The video was made by Mike Cullen. He’s made a handful of videos for me—’Pendulum,’ ‘Puzzle,’ ‘Revelations.’ He and I pulled clips that represented the harsh contrast you’d find on TV and internet. It’s disturbing to try and navigate, and I think the clips show the absurdity of that contrast.”
A Tear In The Fabric is out May 1 on Slumberland, home to many other worthy albums—pre-order it here, and listen to more Williams as you confront the daily deluge of absurdist obscenity / obscene absurdity here.