Review by: Gabe Sander
Artist: Bubble Made Imagination
Album / Label: My Devil / Unsigned
Rating: 7 / 10
One, Two, Three, Four…
Columbus-based Bubble Made Imagination’s debut album, My Devil, begins with a barely audible whispered count-off. It’s reminiscent of a kid preforming for the first time, the nerves and excitement of the imminent performance reaching a fevered pitch.
The band shifts in earnest and confidently introduces itself to the listener with their first track, Just a Word, an upbeat, syncopated rock number, with minimalistic reoccurring motifs that bounce the band’s composite instrumentation: keys, drums, electric guitar, and bass. The man behind the curtain and lone band member is local guitarist and songwriter Andy Dunfee. The band thus clearly enjoys playing with each other, evident in their intricate alliance of rhythm and melody amongst the different overdubs that make up this record.
The LP, with mix coaching/consultation and mastering by Brad Smalling of Evergroove Studio, briefly channels Pink Floyd’s The Wall with a sound bite of a baby sounding out “mama” for the first time before breaking into their second track, Me and Bubble, which possesses much of the same internal drive and energy as Just a Word.
Everyone Ever, the album’s third track, differs in tone and style from the rest of the album prior to this point. This slow, throbbing track explodes into full Weezer mode, offering the rich sonorities and gunk of peak 90s punk with B.M.I.’s own dripping wet sound, making the band reverberate as if they were playing in an empty cathedral.
Throughout the album, B.M.I. demonstrates an aversion to the mundane, choosing to sing primarily about death, the devil, and, oddly enough, bears, although the artists admit 10 percent of the album is devoted to the popular American breakfast food, cereal.
“My Devil” takes another twist with Still Love, the fourth song on the 10-track album. The opening chorus channels the American folk revival, creating a mashup between the instrumentation of a hard rock band with the harmonies and hippie-choral getup of Fleetwood Mac. If this song was a cereal, it would be the organic keto kind from Whole Foods.
For fans of Cobain lyricism, understanding every word on this album is not easy, however the instrumentalists are talented enough to serve as the focal point for the listener. Your Pretty Hat features ranting, spoken-word style punk interludes intermingled with the classic rock sound of the first two tracks. It’s clear the band is aiming for an album that pulls from several genres as influences, from flannelly grunge to a romp past Glass Animals and into a lighter indie-rock sound.
Karmic Justice represents new terrain on the album in that it sounds like the band could open for the Sex Pistols; this is a punk rock song to its bones. It is immediately followed by Natural Causes, which continues the punk-pop trend. The bass player’s right hand and the drummer’s right foot align in cut time, the sudden slowdown convincing the listener they are now walking through Jell-O.
The final three tracks of the LP deviate from the punk theme; Sweet Monster adds classical piano riffs layered on potentially satirical, or perhaps just outright goofy lyrics about cereal. It sounds like what would happen if you combined the musical minimalism of Saint Motel with the unconventional lyricism of Flobots. Sickness Stuck Inside continues this trend of indie rock and instrumental liberalism, with long, lyrically dissonant instrumental passages accompanying the depressing word choice. Gonna Die begins with a counter-parallel riff between the guitar and bass, and reflectively the most straightforward, dark lyrics: “We’re on a spaceship, We’re Gonna Die.”
The band is clearly attempting to pull from several different genres and influences; this album contains musical themes derived from folk, punk, classic and indie rock, and pop. Their personal sound isn’t a coherent driving force in the album because it changes from track to track; the guitar and keys routinely appear in different voice iterations. The truly elite at combining diverse genres typically organize over an iconic, personal sound – one that within the first 10 seconds of a record identifies the band to their fans.
Queen, a band that became legendary for their mixing of classical, metal, opera, rock, and jazz, can be identified by any listener because of the voice of Freddie Mercury and the iconic, piercing Gibson wielded by Brain May. Their sound is just “Queen.” Everyone knows Queen, even comparing their early heavy metal era to the bombastic “A Night at the Opera” album.
This is not to detract from Bubble Made Imagination’s album; it contains musically proficient numbers that blend well with each other, and developing a personal sound is an incredibly difficult thing to do. The band has yet to find their individualized identity. Rather, the album listens as a playlist of interesting, musically diverse songs written and recorded by a serious group of musicians.
It is clear Bubble Made Imagination strives for a distinguishingly quirky atmosphere. Their website features a horribly edited promo banner of Dunfee playing all five instruments, but pokes fun at it later in the FAQs. The highlight of their latest work is the overall musicality, a consistent positive throughout the album. They can effectively channel the heart and soul of carefree hippie love in Still Love without sounding out of their element. The very next track is an authentic punk rock song, showcasing the guitarist’s clear proficiency in performing difficult rhythmic patterns while playing only the required notes, sans extra fluff. Guitarists who know exactly what they want out of a solo are refreshing. Too many musicians try to overstuff every cool-sounding lick into their eight bars.
The fact that these two tracks can share an album consecutively highlights a diverse musical background and internal mastery of the intent of both genres; the free-spirited love and doobie-induced indifference of a music festival in one track immediately followed by the angst and active rebellion of punk rock. It’s clear the group knows how to make good music; all ten tracks are well conceived and performed.
What they yet lack is a mastery of translating their intentions into extensions; the reason their obvious influences like S.T.P. and Green Day resonate so much with their listeners is that their tracks are without much “middleman” between the artist and their work. The listener will learn a great deal about the artists in this album as a result of its unique musicianship, and Bubble Made Imagination possesses all the tools to produce well-conceived, quality records. Overall, the group succeeds in this album and produces a solid foundation from which the group can both explore their musical frontier and hone their inward identity.
- Just A Word
- Me And My Bubble
- Everyone Ever
- Still Love
- Your Pretty Hat
- Karmic Justice
- Natural Causes
- Sweet Monster
- Sickness Stuck Inside
- Gonna Die
Bubble Made Imagination – Still Love