Ball of Flame Shoot Fire are a group of friends from Pittsburgh making a push to become your new favorite freak-rockers. Following the steps of bands like Animal Collective and Man Man, Ball of Flame enjoy pushing boundaries with their unique brand of alternative music and have created a solid album in the process, Jokeland, which the boys self-released late last year. The record covers all sorts of bizarre territory in 46 minutes, combining bits of classic rock, progressive pop, and a heavy dose of strange in an attention-grabbing debut that deserves some consideration even among the more established and respected acts in the experimental rock genre.
What I immediately appreciated about Jokeland was the confidence and talent with which Ball of Flame work their way through an especially eclectic set of songs. The musicianship is sharp and it's obvious the guys work well together. As you hear singers Jess Tambellini and Winston Cook-Wilson's manic voices bouncing off the unique mix of guitars, drums, horns, and keys with flair and gusto, it's apparent that these boys take their craft seriously; that craft just happens to be creating oddball pop songs with titles like "Da Vinci Toad." Early highlights "Mugs" (Tamblellini) and "Bertie Hey" (Cook-Wilson), the latter of which has a kind of spacey Doors-esque feel to it, are good places to start. Also recommended are the earnest and more approachable closers, "Patience" and "Turn the Screw."
Jokeland is a difficult album to wrap your head around, but give it some time and even the more abstract songs reveal some fascinating and entertaining moments. What's most exciting about the record is the promise it shows for these five young musicians comprising Ball of Flame Shoot Fire. The music is brimming with ideas and contains enough ambition that to ignore it would be a real shame. Check out the band on MySpace and head over to Obscure Sound where you can download several of the album's best tunes.