Bubblemath - Such Fine Particles Of The Universe

Year of Release: 2002
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 43:23:00

Having heard a couple of tracks from Bubblemath's Such Fine Particles Of The Universe, two things happened immediately. Secondly, I decided right then and there that I was going to have to get my hands on the whole album, so impressed was I by what I heard. Firstly, I thought that Bubblemath sounded a bit like Echolyn, at least on one of the tracks; the other was a bit like A.C.T. meets Squeeze or visa versa. Having done the second, I can now elaborate upon and correct the first. Listening to the whole album, one is left with an entirely different impression - that is, it isn't an album filled with tracks that sound like early to mid-period Echolyn (e.g. before Cowboy Poems Free) or A.C.T. (well, they've released only three, so they are still in their "early" period).

Though I suspect this is not what they meant by the title of their album, Bubblemath seem to have gathered various particles of the musical universe and combined the various elements together into their own compound. Those elements, or particles, do not come just from the progressive rock world, but from the pop world as well. Now, don't worry about that word "pop." Because it is smart pop, not the vaccous pop that rules the mainstream. Specifically I'm thinking of Squeeze and Oingo Boingo, though you will find more elements of the former here than of the latter - but each of these bands took hooky, catchy pop forms and slipped in some intelligent, insightful, or ironic lyrics behind them. You'll even get socio-political commentary, always a treat for me as I like songs with a bit of meat on them. I like men that way, too, but that's a different topic. Well, actually, it isn't, when I think about it. The "men" part is, but not the meat, as we shall see in a moment.

Let me offer this caveat before I proceed any further: None of that which I have stated thus far is a claim that any of the bands mentioned were an influence, just how I hear what has energetically emerged from my speakers and into my ears. In fact, when I mentioned in a recent online chat at Seismic Radio that I found a similarity to Echolyn, Kai Esbensen (keyboards, vocals) disagreed. I don't discount Kai's perspective, as truly the comparisons are at surface level. I have not drilled down to the underlying song structure and compositional approach. As it is, their sounding a bit like Echolyn is only one element heard here, and this review is of Bubblemath not Echolyn. But, just to close off that thought, suffice it to say that Bubblemath employ similiar vocal layering techniques as Echolyn, and tap into that same "Americaness" of many modern American prog rock bands -- namely the influence of Americana. (Yup, someday I'll write that full column on what exactly I mean by that -- not today). Of course, Echolyn's style was influenced, at least initially, by Gentle Giant (or so listeners felt). Where Bubblemath remind one of Echolyn is during the first two tracks, though more so in the rhythmically choppy (style not a criticism) "Miscreant Citizen" that opens the album. The second is "Be Together," another piece with a twisted twist about halfway through, ending with a very nice, mellow, tinkling piano-like passage from Esbensen. (They also come to mind during part of "TV Paid Off," too). And it doesn't hurt that vocalist Jonathan Smith (xylophone, electric and acoustic guitars, flute) sounds a bit like Ray and Brett (?) at times. In fact, it also doesn't hurt that the vocals are quite good, well-done, very listenable.

Now, in as much as Bubblemath have a bit of that Ameri-prog thing going, unlike Echolyn, and more like Oingo Boingo, Bubblemath bring a quirky, twisted element to this small town image. Take "Help Yourself To A Neighbor" for example. A peeping tom reports on the twisted doings of his neighbors... and here the band remind me more of another American band, Discipline. The track begins with a heavy breathlessness that unscores the perverse nature of the denziens of this town.

But, there are some elements from across the pond, too, namely a merging of early and mid-period Genesis in "Heavenly Scared So," though the happy guitar phrases lean more toward the mid-period (just short of the 80s model). I thought of material from the Foxtrot/Nursery Crime era (though not the expected classics) mixed with a bit of the Trick Of The Tail-era, though it is in the next song, "Your Disease Is Nicer," where the early Collins era really comes to mind (after a hint of Elvis Costello at the beginning). But Bubblemath do this all in their own style, making this a low level homage.

Truly, ...Fine Particles is an amalagam of styles, even if they aren't directly influenced by the artists I named, as even they had sources, too. I say this because the bubbly, 50s cool, rockabilly number "She's No Vegetarian" reminds me of the Stray Cats, but maybe it's just that classic 50s guitar sound. You can almost imagine that Jay Burritt is playing an upright bass (and maybe he is). Remember me mentioning meat? This song is about meat, 100% USDA certified American beef... and one gets the feeling that the members of Bubblemath (or at least Esbensen who penned the piece) is a vegetarian. Of course, with Mad Cow disease and the outcry about cattle being fed genetically altered grain... well, maybe it's not a bad idea...

So back where I started, with mention of Squeeze, where they come to mind with the initially (and ironically) upbeat and cheery "Doll Hammer," a piece that before long becomes darker with a sinister untone. The piece is about an abused child who takes revenge upon her abusing dad turning him into a doll... well, I'm sure we could analyze that a bit more, of course.

Finally, though not the last track, there's "Forever Endeavor" which has a synth pop feel -- 80s new wavish -- the vocals delivered with a breathy urgency. It lasts a mere 1:17, but is deep with meaning. No matter how prepared for death one thinks they are, something sudden and unexpected can happen. Here the reference is to the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

I like smart progressive rock; I like quirky, exuberant, satrical, ironic, sarcastic, cherubic, music that seriously doesn't take itself seriously, and makes serious observations about the universe around them ... us. Well, we are the universe. Being a part of it, we are it. That being the case, I recommend you delve into Bubblemath's ...Universe and become a part of it.

Miscreant Citizen (4:14) / Be Together (5:35) / Dancing With Your Pants Down (2:56) / She's No Vegetarian (2:46) / Doll Hammer (4:35) / TV Paid Off (3:05) / Help Yourself To A Neighbor (3:23) / Forever Endeavor (1:17) / Heaven Scared So (3:34) / Your Disease Is Nicer (2:51) / Potential People (6:24) / Cells Out (4:43)

Blake Albinson - guitar, keyboards, TV spots, and noisy percussion
Jay Burritt - bass
Kai Esbensen - keyboards, vocals, TV spots, and noisy percussion
Jonathan Smith - vocals, xylophone, electric and acoustic guitars, flute, and TV spots
James Swensen-Flagg - drums, wah-pedal-foot-action, and vocals

Such Fine Particles Of The Universe (2002)
Edit Peptide (2017)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 3rd 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.bubblemath.com
Hits: 1518
Language: english


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