Album: Soap Opera
Date: June 16, 2017
Genre: Nerd Rock with Sincerity
One Line Review:
Toronto-based Blimp Rock’s new album Soap Opera (the first album ever released in a bar of soap) is Lou Reed and Gorgon Gano fronting a 54-40 tribute band with original tunes written by the Weakerthans and lyrics by BA Johnston, if he had a library card, and the entire run of OMNI saved to his desktop.
As a general rule, I never research a band past their press kit and album to enter the listening experience with fresh, unbiased ears. I also prefer not to refer to myself in reviews. For this review, once I found out that Blimp Rock unsuccessfully “tried” to sue the iconic, nationally loved, sports monument that is the Toronto Blue Jays, I had to do a little digging, and write about myself at the same time.
To be fair, my digging is shallow as I choose to use my time in other adventures than research a band for a review, but, as it turns out, Blimp Rock outlined a plan to sue the Toronto Blue Jays. (For details, do your own shallow digging.)
The result, besides bad karma and having other introverted artsy nerds across Canada silently shake their hands embarrassingly? Hate mail, or hate tweets, as modern society chooses to display their distain. Enough so, that the tweets were compiled into a montage for their video “In the Doghouse”, available for viewing on YouTube now.
In all fairness, the actual gesture was an exercise in satire that was never intended to go beyond a mention in an Exclaim article. The backlash, whether angry tweeters new they were part of the joke or not, was immediate and visceral.
Honestly, I was hoping to find a huge drawn-out court case with lawyers with southern accents, an angry mob in the gallery, a divided jury, where, right before the case is going to be thrown out due to mistrial, Ace, the current mascot for the Blue Jays, kicks open the door and, along with Santa Clause, leads a procession of elves and kindergarten students dressed as their favourite Pokemon or Power Rangers character, carrying $700,000 in large, burlap sacks with large, crudely drawn “dollar signs” painted on them, while Jimmy Stewart holds a child when a bell rings and Santa, and angels, and lawyers, and money, and Blimp Rock are all simultaneously believed-in in one unifying, glorious, panoramic, widescreen, Technicolour moment.
Angry tweets are a close second, though.
Blimp Rock decided to cleanse themselves with their new album Soap Opera, a catchy, smart, well-crafted geek rock, pop-alt. rock album with catchy tunes, dry wit, and more self-awareness than an Ambush Bug comic.
The album itself, in another self-aware gesture, is the first album to be released in a bar of soap. Re-read that line.
I received an advanced digital copy of the album, and I am still going to order a physical copy to put on display in my office on a book case until the soap melts revealing a gooey, difficult-to-put-in-a-cd-player-because-it-has-chunks-of-soap-on-it album. Yes, I will try to clean it first. Better yet, I will put it in the soap dish in the guest bathroom and see if people wash their hands with it. The ones who don’t, I know to never share popcorn with again.
The obsessive collector side of me wants to keep the soap in pristine condition, perhaps put it in the freezer in an airtight container. The performance art / sociological experiential part of me wants to put it in the bathroom. Decisions, decisions…
(Ok, I am sure the actual cd won’t be in the soap, but here’s hoping, despite the size…)
Blimp Rock’s Soap Opera is tightly played, catchy, humorous, and sincere; witty enough to smile along to and smart enough to sonically enjoy.
Opening track “Blimp Rock Live 3” delves into the questions, comments, and concerns that have been proposed to the band, a biography in 4 minutes 21 seconds. The sound is reminiscent of Lou Reed opening for old school REM with a Kim Deal produced bassline and jangly, ambient guitars.
“Wet Hot Canadian Summer” is the acoustic vibe, 70s summer time tune, combining common activities in a hyperextended line, “fire on the sand by the water / with the wind growing strong /making it harder to light / up the match / but we didn’t mind” to a rather uncommon one, shooting a rifle “right at a droooooooone.” Background vocals a nice ode to the Rheostatics.
Blimp Rock is a series straight lines wrapped around crooked ones.
“Dear Science” is Soap Opera’s Blimp Rock lead single giving a microcosm to the band’s over-all sound and one of the strongest tunes on the album. A duet between Blimp Rock’s lead singer Peter Demakos and theoretical physicist Drew Jamieson, “Dear Science” debates two contrasting worldviews, one open to supernatural mysteries and the personal interpretation of reality, and another focused on the scientific method. The line “is mind over matter really just matter over matter?” should be on a t-shirt and this tune should be the main theme for the next Canadian Sceptic Convention, if such a thing exists. If not, start it.
(No, I’m not going to look it up in the same way I don’t read a band’s Wikipedia page. If it’s not in the press package it’s not worth reading now, is it?)
“Duet With the Devil” is the first time in an album I wrote in a *Spoiler Alert* but then took it out, as I want listeners to experience it on their own. Seriously, it is a rare, unexpected moment on a record that, once it started, I wasn’t sure if it was actually happening. Clever and effective. Super-cool, to boot.
Throughout the album, Blimp Rock has distinct stylistic and sound references. “Raccoon Nation” sounds like 54-50’s Neil Osbourne signing with the Weakerthan’s in a stripped down jam. Vocally, it is uncanny the similarity to 54-40 in this track which, as an unabashed 54-40 fan, is a good thing. “Ode to Basketball” sounds so like an old-REM tune to the point where there is a background vocal line sounds like it has a special-guest appearance by Michael Stipe.
“Ode To Faults” creates a personal glimpse of short-comings, odd connections, and fitting failures brining Blimp Rock to where they are today; a likeable, un-liked, silly, serious, blimp-loving, alt. band.
With its clean production, catchy riffs, and self-aware style, Blimp Rock’s Soap Opera is poised to win over an entire new legion of Blimp Rock fans, maybe even a Blue Jay fan or two.