Published on October 21st, 2015 | by Miles Martin0
Bullets or Balloons, Naturalistically Review
The release party for Bullets or Balloons’ “Naturalistically” was an unusually intimate and cathartic event. Sharing a Saturday night with the hugely successful “Terrain” art show may have explained the intimacy while the selection of David Plell’s new project, “Powerbleeder,” as an opener certainly explained the emotional purge felt throughout the evening.
The brilliant rhythm section of Bullets or Balloons comprised of Aaron Anderburg on bass and Cory Phipps on drums once backed Plell in a band known as “Cyrus Fell Down”. Working through high school and beyond, Cyrus Fell Down became a beloved Spokane band. When Plell left the group to pursue an education as well as new projects, it was commonly assumed that bad blood existed between the frontman and his former bandmates. What became clear that evening at the Big Dipper was that any animosity between the two parties has been replaced with mutual admiration, love and respect. Another thing that became clear is that Chris Henderson, Bullets or Balloons imposing yet loveable frontman, has acquired the finest rhythm section Spokane Washington has ever produced and employed them in a way that perfectly complements the frustration, rage and absurdity of his lyrics and compositions.
Henderson’s Lyrics confront hypocrisy, meaninglessness in language and political futility with a sneering sarcasm that is compelling and infectious. He never comes off as pretentious or as someone with solutions to the woes he addresses. He’s not a preacher; he’s a pissed off observer. His delivery of the lyrics is a grating, highly rhythmic half-shout that perfectly encapsulates his ideas. By speaking rather than singing he more directly engages the audience and the audience, in turn, feels like a participant in his anger and despair.
As Henderson stomps, strums and shouts at stage-left, the well-oiled machine of Aaron Anderburg and Cory Phipps churns out a meticulous maelstrom of sound at stage-right. The legendary rhythm section has formed a habit of never facing the audience, opting instead to face each other, allowing for maximum communication. It is this high level of communication that allows them to reproduce the many time-signature and tempo changes heard on “Naturalistically” in a live setting. Closing themselves off from the audience, their stage presence is like that of Gladiators battling in a coliseum, fully invested in the fray, barely acknowledging the chaos around them. Anderburg crams in so many notes per measure with his finger-tap style that you have trouble recognizing his unique sound as being that of a bass guitar and Phipps never misses a beat, responding instantly to the constant rhythmic changes of the compositions. Their deep and intricate sound is perfectly balanced by Henderson’s minimalist and melodic approach to his guitar lines. It all results in a sound that is simultaneously chaotic and controlled.
In the short run time of “Naturalistically” Bullets or Balloons manages to play more unique sections and fragments than would be found on a double-album of any other “Punk” band. They seem to suffer from a special kind of musical-ADD that prevents them from ever becoming repetitious. The music is mind-bogglingly progressive but never becomes baffling to the listener who can easily head-bang through all the clever changes (which is a credit to Cory’s drumming). With this cohesive and compelling release it is estimable that Bullets or Balloons will amass a loyal following here in Spokane. Our town’s many educated enthusiasts of hard rock shouldn’t miss their next show.