Monday, May 17, 2021

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Sound Check

Sound Check


Gloom Balloon

“Drying the Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom, Underneath the Stars and the Moon”

Maximum Ames Records

Probably the most polarizing Des Moines act of the last half decade or so has been Gloom Balloon, Patrick Tape Fleming’s collaboration with Chris Ford. Gloom Balloon’s live shows and recordings have a fairly distinct tone from Fleming’s band The Poison Control Center and Ford’s Christopher the Conquered. “Goddess of Gloom,” reflects further on love, sex, loss and fatherhood, incorporating his infant son’s wails into the album opener, “Password.” Where the album really shines is in tracks that incorporate lusher instrumentation and powerful backup vocals by Ford and the legendary Tina Haase Findlay on tracks like “The Shit You Put Me Through” and the album’s title track. Fleming has talked about “Goddess of Gloom” possibly being his musical swan song. It makes a certain amount of sense. Not many indie rockers break through with a national audience on Fleming’s side of 30. So if it’s a goodbye, it’s been a good run. But I’ll hold out hope that this isn’t Fleming hiding his creativity away. Gloom Balloon performs Oct. 14 at Vaudeville Mews. ♦

Crystal City



Prep Iowa

If you were to make a roots rock concept album, drinking seems like a fitting enough topic. That’s the approach the Iowa City band Crystal City took with “Bartenderly,” a follow-up to 2014’s “Change.”

“Bartenderly” doesn’t set out to focus on the virtues or evils of alcohol, it’s more like slipping into a neighborhood bar full of familiar faces. Some are just there for an evening out and some clearly have some issues lurking behind their fifth jack and Coke.

The album starts strongly with explosive numbers like “Saturday Night” and “Stop Fishing” packed into the first few tracks. If there’s a weakness, it’s probably that, like a drunk at last call, it sticks around a little long. “Bartenderly” has 17 tracks; it’s a musical commitment.

Singers Dave Helmer and Sam Drella play off each other well, and the musical bench is stacked with backup from David Zollo, Randall Davis, Brock Muench and others. “Bartenderly” is worth having a drink with. ♦

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