Let me begin by saying that I wasn’t expecting much from a band named Ballerina Black. A band’s name tends to give off the subtle impression of an album’s content. Given this, one might assume Ballerina Black to be a contrived mixture of some sort of pseudo-intellectual pop music, but that person would be wrong. It would seem that Ballerina Black, like the Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin or other bands with unusualmonikers, might have more to offer than its name would suggest.
The band’s latest album, “Cattle Arithmetic,” starts off strong with the track “Leaves,” which opens with a peppy bassline that builds into an overwhelmingly lush instrumental backing. Grungy with an influence of southern California mellowed punk, “Leaves” offers a snapshot of the complementary multiple personalities showcased on this album.
“Kelly Pain,” the second track, finishes off the genre worldview of Ballerina Black with a healthy dose of Gothic ramblings and sets the listener up for an album that sounds mostly like different permutations of the first two tracks.
This is not to say that this album is boring or not worth listening to. If you enjoy the sound of The Cure’s late-’80s foray into the Gothic genre, then this album, which sounds like a slightly more updated version of that signature melancholy moaning, will resonate with you. As much as there’s a touch of The Cure frontman Robert Smith’s gravel in the vocals, there’s also a good heaping of a lighter tonality which might be more familiar to fans of AFI lead vocalist Davey Havok.
There is an evident flow throughout “Cattle Arithmetic,” and even songs such as “Squeeze Through” and “Rivals,” which are less vocally and lyrically creative than others, have a great feeling of soft dirtiness about them. “Squeeze Through” exudes its strong bass undertones into a pool of filthy, dark satisfaction, while “Rival,” has a heavier, more metal version of the thudding backbeat.
“Cattle Arithmetic”features some songs you should listen to just because of their titles, which, honestly, do a great job of appealing to the inner 12-year-old in each of us while also speaking to the song’s content. Titles such as “Microphones in the Mattress” provide apt visual description of what we should expect aurally and delivers a rhythmically thudding base and lyrics that convey all of the plaintive sadness of going solo.
A well-rounded album, “Cattle Arithmetic” draws the listener into its dark bowels, smothering us in the suffocating beauty of its raw emotion.
The sound that Ballerina Black has plied throughout the album seems founded on a lush blend of guitars and basses complementing their brand of vocal yearning. Combine this with its angst-filled lyrics and Ballerina Black should be popular with the younger generation that needs a creative outlet for its angry self-obsession.
In light of all of this, whether “Cattle Arithmetic” is actually good seems irrelevant. It fills a necessary niche and just like the people who will enjoy listening to them, Ballerina Black doesn’t seem to mind being quietly popular.
Tune in to KSLC 90.3 FM to hear tracks from Ballerina Black’s debut album “Cattle Arithmetic.”
Eric Tompkins can be reached at email@example.com