The Review That Couldn’t Swim: Gloom Balloon’s “Songs That Couldn’t Swim”

The Review That Couldn’t Swim: Gloom Balloon’s “Songs That Couldn’t Swim”

I hate “concept reviews.” They are so cloying and self-involved and they rarely, if ever, convey much about the music they’re attempting to review. More often than not they just function as some lazy exercise in vanity on the part of the writer. Luckily for me, Trey basically lets me do whatever I want. What follows is my attempt at wrapping my mind grapes around Patrick Tape Fleming’s profound but disjointed collection of Gloom Balloon songs that still have to use those inflatable bicep thingies whenever they leave the shallow end of the pool.

Lo-fi, fuzzy whisperlike quality to Fleming’s vocals, particularly on the first two tracks, gives it a dreamy

“A Notice from Otis”: this upbeat track, along with “The Science of Love” and “She Was The One That Got Away”, are the only tracks out there that even come close to capturing the manic, positive energy from Gloom Balloon’s live shows. Which are awesome. Seriously go see this dude live. He deserves your 5 dollar bill more than you do.

“The Prettiest Song” – a heartbroken love song that’s got just the slightest hint of some old country crooner influences. Last winter I saw Lucca Soria soundcheck at the Mews with a little snippet of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” although he changed the lyrics to “If I Ain’t Have You” and delivered it in his trademark ancient, wizened drawl and it was absolutely fucking magical. This song kind of reminds me of that moment.

Brace yourself for a hot, fresh take right now, but I strongly believe that Loudon Wainwright III’s two best albums are 2001’s The Last Man on Earth and 2012’s Older Than My Old Man Now. Obviously so much of his seminal work from the 70’s is great and still important to me, but there’s a refreshingly honest and childish element to his later work, where he takes a long hard look at his life and realizes he’s an aging hipster who made a lot of mistakes and is willing to own up to the fact that as much as he might wish his life had turned out different he’s accepting enough of himself to own those mistakes and recognize that they may have been necessary. Something about the beautiful and bittersweet “There’s No Reason To Get Up” made me think of those two albums, particularly “Living Alone” off The Last Man on Earth.

“’May Your Days Be Merry And Bright’ is what a smile sounds like” is, embarrassingly, actually something I thought and wrote while trying to find some cool words and phrases to describe how fucking beautiful this track is. I’ll have to carry that burden for the rest of my life.

“Between the Sun and Geography” is all distorted and bright

Dude. “Dust”. Like seriously. This song is just gorgeous. Undisputable. The heartbreaking thing about life and mass media (shakes fist at sky) is that everyone is conditioned to believe that they should be looking for a puddle to splash around in. Nobody really wants to be the puddle. Even though it’s really not all that bad being a puddle. And sometimes it can be pretty disheartening to splash around in a bunch of puddles just because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do.

The title of this song made me think of Les Miserables but it doesn’t really sound like Les Miserables. It sounds real goofy and fun like some of the weirder music the Guatemalan dudes I work with play that somehow incorporates traditional Spanish folk music and laser sound effects.

Very groovy homesick sound on that werewolves in London song that reminds me of a time in my life when I still found Zach Braff’s character in Garden State relatable, and occasionally even profound.

As long as we’ve all got one thing to keep us alive it should work out okay. Even if it means drinking a lot of beer and never making enough money to stay in hotels.

Gloom Balloon’s Songs That Couldn’t Swim is out on cassette tape via Maximum Ames records tomorrow, on St. Patrick’s Day and the release party is tonight!

March 16
7 PM
Iowa Music Store
All Ages

Gloom Balloon
Nate Logsdon

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