Gloom Balloon: So Bergman Uses Bach… (Grand Phony Music) Review

This year has been filled to the brim with calamities for musicians across the globe, with temporary and all-too-often permanent closings of music venues, the cancellation of concerts and tours, and the bulk of music in general becoming virtual and existing primarily on the internet. It doesn’t seem like a great idea to be releasing albums right now, because there’s no way to have release parties in real life, no way for artists to connect directly with fans, no way to tour behind the album being released and maximize the excitement of the whole thing.

Thankfully, Gloom Balloon has decided to say screw it and release one anyway. And it feels somehow like the perfect album for this year.

After dabbling with soul music on his previous two records, GB’s resident architect Patrick Fleming is wearing his soul patch very much up front on So Bergman Uses Bach To Get His Point Across, I Feel Like I Have Chosen Rock But At What A Cost, and it feels fully incorporated into his sound now. And for such a lengthy title, the songs sure are short, with several clocking in at less than 30 seconds, and even the excellent single “Long Distance Love (Waterloo Sunrise)” only taking up a little over a minute and a half of album space. During a year when we’re all on the internet too much, and attention spans are waning, this seems designed to be the perfect pandemic album.

All of the songs are just dripping in melody and arrangement, with strings and choirs all over the place (Patrick has stated in the past that he loves the sound of Moody Blues records, and it shows in particular on this record). There is a surprising thread of ennui that emerges here as well, with lyrics questioning whether it was the right choice to get sucked into the rock and roll world at all, and realizing that it’s much too late. There is also a fun sort of Easter egg hunt in the titles and lyrics, referencing everything from The Kinks to Simon and Garfunkel (and, of course, the Sgt. Pepper homage right there on the album cover).

Soul, ennui, pop culture references, short attention spans, and an emotional center to ground it all — this is the album that 2020 may not have known it wanted, but it desperately needed it, and Gloom Balloon has somehow encapsulated it all during a time when it doesn’t make sense in the slightest to make records at all.

Bryon Dudley
Bryon Dudley is a writer and musician from Ames. He has written about music and other topics for a number of local publications and blogs. When not playing music and putting out albums with groups such as Strong Like Bear, Liana, and Rockets of Desire, he is helping other Iowa artists record their music at his studio, The Spacement, and releasing it on the Iowa label he co-founded, Nova Labs. He has a tattoo of an aardvark and is adjusting to bifocals.