Kravitz's continued adherence to his ridiculous, often-parodied rock star stance is what makes him--even more than his decidedly retrograde music-- an anachronism. And while bands like Urge Overkill get away with Kravitz-like stud rock because they riff with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks, Kravitz is all the more difficult to stomach because he's so lacking in irony.
If it's possible to separate the music from the silly rock star that created it (or if you actually dig Kravitz's pose), Circus turns out to be a better-than-average classic rock record. "Magdalene" bursts with as much melody and enthusiasm as Matthew Sweet power-pop; the mid-tempo "Can't Get You Off My Mind" sways like the country-flavored rock of the '70s; and "Don't Go and Put a Bullet in Your Head" is driven by a surprisingly nonretro drum machine beat.
Circus is interesting as well for its heavy religious content. Though Kravitz's hippified vision of world harmony goes back to his first single, 1989's "Let Love Rule," never has he sounded more overtly Christian than here on songs like "God Is Love" and "The Resurrection." Traditional Christians might find his mix of sexuality with religion offensive, and secular rock fans might find his beatitudes creepy. Still, if gangster rap or left-wing folk music are valid themes for pop music, there's certainly room as well for Kravitz's religious convictions and positive vibe. --Roni Sarig