Space Ballerinas: If Goth Was Pink

Dave Heaton

Space Ballerinas

If Goth Was Pink

Label: YoYo
US Release Date: 2001-09-04

The musical texture of that opening story-song, "Ballerina Fell...", is supplied by keyboards and a powerful voice that is both angelic and eerie. Both that instrument and that voice are courtesy of Anna Oxygen, one of the group's three members. Musically, her voice is the most unique thing about the group. It has a weight to it that puts it right in the center of each song, even when it's really in the background, as on the start of that opening track. Yet the same factor that makes it stand out also gives the group's sound an odd unbalance. When the music is sparse (keyboards, bass, drums), such a unique voice stands out so much that at times it seems cartoonish or awkwardly showy.

Putting on a show, however, might just be what Space Ballerinas are mostly about. The group, from Olympia Washington, has made its name through live performances that integrate aspects of "performance art" with music, using slides to illustrate its stories. Seeing a multimedia presentation of a goofy story about a ballerina swallowing her eyeballs is one thing, listening to a version of it at home is another. This isn't to say that the group necessarily imagines itself to be more a live band than a studio band; I'd guess by the release of this CD that they don't. Still, what seems fun in a nightclub can seem rather silly when you're listening to it at home, and If Goth Was Pink is proof of that.

At times it seems like Space Ballerinas are going for a rock-opera feel, but prefer to tell short, fanciful stories than long, intricate ones. As with any fusion of narrative and music, the best Space Ballerinas songs are those where the stories themselves strike some kind of chord. "Three Strings", for example, keeps the group's musical personality intact while telling a story that connects more closely with real-life issues, those of a ballerina kicked out of her class for being too chubby. Musically, that track falls into a punkish dance groove that helps propel the story along. "Castle" and "Johnny Spaceship" also work better than the others because they bring the music and the narrative together in a way that feels more cohesive -- in both cases, the group creates a dreamy atmosphere that suits the song well.

Listener reaction to If Goth Was Pink might depend heavily on who those listeners are. If your sense of humor jibes more closely with that of Space Ballerinas (as I'm guessing most of their stories are at least partially meant to be funny) than mine does or if you have a greater tolerance for the extremely dramatic (if you're a big fan of current musical theatre), you might like them more than I do. From me, the strongest reaction Space Ballerinas can draw is a firm "Huh?"





Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.