Review – “Soap Opera” – Blimp Rock

soap operaDisclaimer: I may be a little biased about the song “Duet With the Devil” because I made a suggestion that nudged this song in the direction it took.

reviewed by Michael Thomas

The saga of Blimp Rock is one that spans legal disputes with the Blue Jays, advertising slots on Mount Eerie’s band naming services page, bird blimps and a venture into vintage office supplies. If you’ve been following Blimp Rock from the project’s inception, you’ll notice the act has built quite a mythology. Soap Opera ostensibly is a means of “wiping the slate clean” (I mean, the album does come in a bar of soap), but there’s plenty here that winks and nods back to the band’s own history. As it builds and builds upon itself, each record gets better and better.

Though Blimp Rock’s music leans more towards a pop-rock vein, the best comparison for the band is the Burning Hell. Both Peter Demakos and Mathias Kom have a gift for spinning highly literate songs that reward repeat listens. A song like “I Love My Cat” is full of layers. On the surface it’s a song just about loving your cat; a level lower, you’ll discover it’s about loving your cat because they help ease the “microtraumas” in your life. Dig even deeper, Demakos may at one point be singing about either Cat Stevens or his cat named Stevens. And there’s even more you can uncover if you listen. There’s a deeper layer to “Oh, Basketball” which is about ways to have fun in a densely populated city. Wax Mannequin contributes a verse that turns the whole song on its head.

Some recurring topics in Blimp Rock albums make their returns, namely Toronto, referenced in the two-parter “Raccoon Nation” and “Raccoon Nation 2.” In the former, Demakos admits he sings about Toronto a lot, and succinctly sums up Toronto by describing it as a place about which you have to talk 15 minutes to describe how you feel. The latter is picked up by an almost Ramones-like energy and mentions more Toronto-specific things, like the extralegal act of drinking in parks or the rise of yet another new condo. “Wet Hot Canadian Summer” is for the aspirational people who try to get out of the city for a vacation and wish they had a cottage in Muskoka.

Of course there’s the latest installment of the song “Blimp Rock Live,” this one dealing with the myriad questions the band receives. It also repurposes a line from the original “Blimp Rock Live” but adds a caveat: “Blimp Rock is going live by the lake/In 2060 or ’75.”

Demakos gets a bit sillier on this album, especially in “Duet With the Devil,” in which the part of Satan is played by none other than Mathias Kom. The folky back-and-forth has Demakos and Satan hanging out in several places, before Satan tries to make a deal for Demakos’ soul. An unexpected verse later on references the classic “Sympathy for the Devil.” There’s a lot of fun to be had in “Dear Science,” where Demakos and Drew Jamieson debate poltergeists, people’s souls, placebos and horoscopes, but it’s unexpectedly poignant in today’s political climate. At one point Peter sings “There is no such thing as the truth/We make our own truth, it’s as simple as that,” which Jamieson counters with “What does that mean? Sounds like bullshit. Things can be proven, just ask Darwin.”

There’s some beautiful confessional songs here on the album too, in the vein of “401” or “Does It Ever.” In this case it’s the stellar “Ode to Faults,” which Demakos sings a cappella for a stretch, confessing to being “born with shoddy pitch” and the only person who didn’t get into his school talent show after auditioning. “Though it’s probably not your fault, come to terms with your faults” is said multiple times in the song, and it’s sage advice.

This whole act is an endless well of fun and creativity. Whether the band is in the doghouse with a major-league baseball team or hiring For-Profit Sea-Doo Detectives, their growing catalogue of music contains more references and laughs than you’ll find in most contemporary music.

Top Tracks: “Dear Science”; “Ode to Faults”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*

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