Kyuss continues to cast a large shadow over the stoner doom scene that is perpetual and ever-changing. This truth is no more certain than the shadow they cast over themselves and having to live up the expectations they set. Coming out of nowhere (really the Palm Desert in California), the band set the template for the genre with Blues For The Red Sun (Dali) and Welcome To Sky Valley (Elecktra), but were always going to be hard-pressed to keep that pace. Looking back on their final album And The Circus Leaves Town (Elecktra), it may have not have lived up to its lofty older sisters, but it has some gems that maybe were not appreciated at the time since the band was disintegrating.
With Brant Bjork departed by this time and Alfredo Hernández (Yawning Man, QOTSA), taking over the drum throne, the band continued to build on their lo-fi stoner sound. They were consciously trying to move away from the “big” sound they had on their major-label debut (Sky Valley) and in a way that was pretty punk of them. With the label telling them that they didn’t have a hit with the last album, the retreated even further into themselves and tried to get back to the start of their sound heard on Wretch.
While the album doesn’t have as many memorable riffs and giant hooks, it’s much better than its given credit for historically. John Garcia’s passionate raspy voice, Josh Homme’s singing riffs and leads, and the strong rhythm section of Scott Reeder and Hernández laid down some very strong tracks that would be better loved had they been by another band or a band that had not just made two masterpieces.
With tracks like ‘Hurricane’, ‘One Inch Man’, ‘Gloria Lewis’, ‘Phototropic’, ‘El Rodeo’, ‘Jumbo Blimp Jumbo’, and ‘Catamaran’, the band has some gems that are worth reexamining, in the same way, Led Zeppelin fans overlook In Through The Out Door or Presence (both Swan Song/Atlantic), because they are not Physical Graffiti. Closing track ‘Spaceship Landing’ is ambitious and weird as an overlong exploratory experiment with other hidden tracks inside like a 1960s Pink Floyd or Hawkwind suite of tracks and gives an idea where they could have gone with one more full album. I still think Garcia and Homme might show us something someday if the spirit moves them.
The bad was broken up a few months later, with a split of leftovers that Homme would use as a springboard to Queens of The Stone Age and bigger acclaim that he always lusted after. The final lesson of Kyuss (for now) and of And The Circus Leaves Town is that sometimes an underground band just needs to be left alone to their own devices and not chase major label trappings.