As anyone who has indulged in the wilder side of life is aware, great albums are a lot like a dangerous yet seductive drug. They’re intoxicating, mind-altering and have the unique ability to extract us from our own minds and bodies, take us somewhere more enlightened, and then leave us terribly addicted to this new found feeling, willing to do anything to get there once more. BRF, the new extended play from Pittsburgh’s critically acclaimed Balloon Ride Fantasy, is a white hot designer drug that will leave you dazed, confused and desperately craving another hit from this stellar, awesomely talented rock band.
Records like BRF make me think a lot about a band’s presence in the studio as opposed to their skills on stage. I’ve never seen Balloon Ride Fantasy live, but I wonder if their enormous sound would translate well into a club environment or even a big stadium show. In a lot of respects, they remind me of Reviled Sway, Gold or Ghostland Observatory. When Ghostland, the most talented pop duo of their era in my opinion, first hit the scene, critics threw them a lot of shade and questioned whether or not their zany album antics could ever find a suitable home or audience to play to anywhere outside of a studio.
I ended up seeing the pair live about seven years ago at an open air festival in the Pacific Northwest, and they were nothing less than spectacular, delivering what would end up being one of my all-time favorite concert experiences in all of the thousands that I’ve had in my life. Balloon Ride Fantasy shares the same sort of all-encompassing, massively sprawling tonality that Ghostland does, and if they were able to get even a tenth of this energy on BRF converted into live motion, I think they could easily take over not just the summer festival scene but the nightclub and midlevel theatre markets as well. When you’ve got the kind of charisma that this band has, the possibilities are endless when the pieces are all working in tandem.
Balloon Ride Fantasy are not trying to break the world with BRF, but they’re definitely not shying away from the big stage with hooks that are this deliciously fierce and palatably digestible. The lustiness of the instrumentation is certain to make this one of the sexier releases of the summer, and with such mesmerizing prose accentuating their thoughtful harmonies and organic melodies, it won’t take very much for this band to make the big break they’ve been working towards and finally get the attention from the mainstream, FM radio crowd that they’ve been chasing after for a number of years now.
It makes me really happy to see indie artists with so much promise and potential not backing down from making risky records like this one just because of the pressures of the media and their contemporaries to follow the beat of a specific drum. In that respect, maybe we could all learn something about staying true to ourselves from Balloon Ride Fantasy.
-review by Sherry McCrae