Floating Opera

Everybody's Somebody's Monster

From All Music Guide, by Jason Birchmeier

After a self-released cassette that alluded to songwriter/producer Richard Rebarber's visionary musical talents, his Floating Opera project returned in late 1996 with this full-length album for -ismist Recordings. Not that much has changed for Rebarber in those years; he's still a craftsman focused on near orchestral pop/rock that is slightly challenging and always poetic. Yet here he enlists Lori Allison (Millions) and Heidi Ore (Mercy Rule) to handle the vocal duties, a choice that propels his songs into ethereal territory - these are two exceptionally talented vocalists with an absolutely heavenly grasp of his literate lyrics In addition to these stunning vocals, the somewhat subdued ensemble musicianship complements perfectly, serving as an inspired foundation for the two ladies to sing over. Not too accessible, even if it is genius songwriting, this album should impress anyone looking for sophisticated pop music with a near orchestral sense of instrumentation (for an example, look to the inventive cover of Hüsker Dü's "Makes No Sense at All"). If Rebarber was a New York or Los Angeles resident rather than a Nebraskan, there's a good chance be much more familiar with his name than you are now. Furthermore, due to the infrequency of the Floating Opera releases, this album takes on a much greater value in retrospect.

(Webmaster's correction: The lyrics on this record are written by Charles Lieurance).

Aiding and Abetting, January 13, 1997, by Jon Worley:

(This review is in the web 'zine Aiding and Abetting.)

As a Missouri college student in the 80s, I couldn't avoid the sound of the Millions, a Lincoln (Neb.) band. As a Missouri college student in the 90s, I got damned excited every time I saw Mercy Rule (another band from Nebraska). And so arrives this disc, with members of both bands (most obviously, the singers) and a plethora of other local Lincoln talent. All under the watchful eyes of Richard Rebarber.

Really crafted stuff. The press draws comparisons to Kate Bush and Tori Amos, and the meticulous arrangements and production certainly bear out the nods. But where those two artists can get overbearing really fast, Floating Opera simply shines. Perhaps it's the revolving musical cast. Perhaps it's the gorgeous songwriting. Or maybe just some of that Nebraska magic (alright, alright, enough with that weirdness).

A fine set of pop tunes. Six new ones, an odd take on a Husker Du tune (actually, it sounds an awful lot like the Wedding Present, substituting piano for that trademark guitar) and three songs from a three-year-old self-released tape (the sound is seamless, so perhaps this should be considered a full-length; oh well).

Classically-trained pop, painstakingly created and yet not stilted in the slightest. A joy to hear.

Keyboard Magazine, November 1997 issue, by Titus Levi

: (This review appeared in the "Discoveries" column. I removed two errors, both involving the Mercy Rule CD)

Floating Opera's songs on the imaginatively titled "Everybody's Somebody's Monster" have the closest connection to current radio play, if you count AAA and College formats. Lori Allison's vocals, sometimes direct and unadorned and other times wailing and warbly, waft over keyboard/composer/arranger Richard Rebarbers deeply detailed timbral backdrops. Througout, the core members of the band augment their sound with contributions from additional musicians, including former members of the Millions (formerly on Smash/Polygram) and Mercy Rule. On "Magician's Daughter," the band adds horn arrangements that evoke the suspense and strangeness of the circus act described in the lyrics.

Cultophile Rock Review, 1997, by Kevin McCollough

(This review is in the web 'zine Cultophile Rock Review.)

First off, this CD is good..Whether you wil like it or not, however, will depend a lot on your peronal tastes. It is not my personal favorite, but I can see its goodness. I think I would probably classify this as rock, although it might fit comfortably in the pop zone. The majority of the lead singing is handled by Lori Allison, formerly of the band The Millions, although Heidi Ore sings the lead vocals on two songs, and Tammy VanDe Bogart sings lead some as well. The singing is practically backed up by an Orchestra, what with the electric and acoustic guitars, violins, cellos, and more. The music is some of the best written, arranged, and performed I have heard, and it is really very beatuiful. It is also rather depressing, with songs like Teenage Death Song. The songs generally run in this vein. The CD also contains 3 bonus tracks from their first release, a self-titled cassette. The bonus songs are Dressed in Seven, Lisa's Limbs, and Forever in June. It is a very good CD, so if you like the soft(er) pop genre, then thou must get it.

Feedback, Issue #22, Spring 1997, by Angela Hatcher:

It doesn't take an extensive stretch of the mind to picture this CD as the soundtrack to a very eerie Broadway musical. The composition of most of the songs adheres to a sort of pop/musical hybrid. Most of the songs were written by Richard Rebarber with Charles Lieurance providing the lyrics and an assortment of musicians providing the vessel. Lending their talents were the beautiful voices of Tammy VanDe Bogart, Lori Allison (formerly of the Millions) and Heidi Ore (Mercy Rule). Probably the most talked about track on the album is "The Magician's Daughter," more than likely due to it's sheer creepiness. "He's always got a knife to her throat./He outlines her body with daggers./She's always dismembered and lying in pieces./She goes wherever he drags her..." Actually most of the songs, even the ones with a facade of normalcy, are tinged with that sweet, ploying smell of the monster lurking under your bed (or in it, as the case may be). The music and vocals are deceptively lovely when combined with the often disturbing lyrics. the effect of this communion is a heightened sense of underlying terror. This is one of the albums that comes closest to putting it's finger on the deep-embedded horror of everyday life. "Teenage Death Song," for instance, is a tender song about the turmoil of growing up. Maybe it's only me, but I can quite easily associate high school society with sheer terror. "I get a little nervous sometimes;/shoot the puppies and I don't know why./Gonna get me a red windbreaker,/shoot all the shrinks and speed into the night." And I love the line, "Teenage girls/they always come in threes," because it's true and it's scary as hell. Highly recommended.

Omaha World-Herald, March 30, 1997, by Jim Minge:

Stellar Project

Lincoln all-star band Floating Opera has followed it's self-titled cassette with the release of "Everybody's Somebody's Monster" (-ismist Recordings), a stellar collection of acoustic rock, piano-driven ballads, symphoniclike pop tunes and more.

Produced by Richard Rebarber, the songs of Floating Opera are brought to life by the likes of Heidi Ore, Jon Taylor and Ron Albertson or Mercy Rule, as well as singer Lori Allison and guitarist Harry Dingman III, formerly of the Millions.

I love "Magician's Daughter," with Miss Ore on vocals backed by Rebarber on keyboards and Franklin Riggs on trumpet, among others. Miss Ore leading vocally on a twisted cover of the Bob Mould-written Husker Du song, "Makes No Sense at All" is a keeper, too.

Miss Allison lends strong lead vocals on "Summer Crystal," an acoustic pop ditty, and "Merseyside," a delicate piano-steered ballad - with nice cello and violin touches from Alyssa Storey and Kristi Pfabe. Songs 8, 9 and 10 are bonus tracks, previously released on Floating Opera's self-titled debut.

What a great thing Floating Opera is. And "Everybody's Somebody's Monster" is a well produced and finely crafted project. Cool artwork by Dingman. Kudos to all.

Omaha Reader, February 11, 1997, by Kyle Tonniges:

The follow-up to Floating Opera's 1993 self-titled debut, "Everybody's Somebody's Monster" is every bit as rich and rewarding. Richard Rebarber and assorted friends (including members of Mercy Rule and the Millions) have created a mosaic of moods and stories that's the perfect escape from a horrible day.

Lori Allison (the Millions) sounds better than ever, and Mercy Rule shows there's more than one way to whip a horse's ass with their low-key appearance. Much of the success of the record is due to the lush arrangements in which almost every musician had a voice. Arrangement by committee can end up sounding like an Emerson, Lake and Palmer show, but the Floating Opera crew uses it to their advantage. Recorded at Lincoln's Ismist Recording Studios, "Everybody's Somebody's Monster is a romantic and relaxing way to spend an hour.

(Web writer's note: The cd was recorded at a home studio, and not at Ismist Recording Studios, which in fact doesn't exist. Nonetheless, we appreciate the good review.)

Moe Magazine, by Bob Pomeroy:

The Floating Opera disc first caught my attention because their cover art had a wholesome, but weird, quality. The young lovers on the front are shown holding hands from adjacent crypts on the back. Everybody's Somebody's Monster has a similar effect of evoking wholesome strangeness. The music is orchestrated pop with clean vocals, piano and strings provinding as much coloring as electric guitar. On a very superficial level, the group touches base with Tori Amos and similar female-fronted pop groups. Lyrically, Floating Opera is closer to the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow. There is a gothic feel to the stories told. Their remake of Husker Du's `Makes No Sense at All' will not be mistaken for the original, but I'm sure Bob Mould would approve. It sounds like the sort of arrangement he might have done for the Workbook album.

Jersey Beat #59, by Rodney Leighton:

A well named group, which appears to have a core cast and many friends. Lead vocalist Lori Allison has a great voice and her performances are very well presented midst a harmony of excellent instrumentation and eclectic musical arrangements. Allison ussed to sing for The MILLIONs, if anyone cares. Songbird Heidi Ore contributed lead vocals on a couple of cuts and multi-talented Tammy VanDe Bogart on one. Of course, the songs are all about social issues (aren't all songs, especially lately). A fun release, a pleasure to listen to. I should mention the coll art on the liner sleeve; among the best and most intriguing liner note art I've seen.

Lincoln Sunday Journal Star, July 20, 1997, by L. Kent Wolgamott:

The Floating Opera has produced two of the best recordings to come out of Lincoln in the '90s. But the unique collaboration of local musicians brought together by producer Richard Rebarber has yet to play live.

That will change Wednesday night when 11 of Lincoln's best musicians gather at the Nebraska Educational Television Network studios for a 7pm taping of "33rd Street Sessions."

Those scheduled to appear Wednesday include Lori Allison and Benjamin Kushner, former vocalist and guitarist of the Millions; Heidi Ore, Jon Tayor and Ron Alberson of Mercy Rule; Pat Knoecker of Opium Taylor; veteran local bassist Terry Pieper; cellist Alyssa Story, violinist Leanne Dynneson; and Rebarber, who plays keyboards.

The musicians will play in several different combinations, primarily divided into two groups.

"We've got the quiet group and the less quiet group. The quiet group is with strings, the less quiet group is Mercy Rule plus Terry and Lori. There are no two songs with the same personnel," Rebarber said.

Wednesday's concert likely will start with the quiet group and close with the rock-driven sound of the louder ensemble with stage changes kept to a minimum to save time.

When the concert airs on NETV later this year, Rebarber hopes the final version will alternate the loud and soft songs, creating a more compelling, dynamic experience for viewers.

All but one of the songs in Wednesday's show will be taken from the two Floating Opera releases, 1993's self-titled cassette, and last year's "ismist" CD "Everybody's Somebody's Monster."

The latter is a brillian collection of lush, carefully arranged, superbly played inviting songs anchored by the entrancing vocals of Allison and Ore - the two best female pop singers Lincoln has ever produced.

Rebarber's music is deeply woven, creating a variety of setting from driving, rock-based sounds to drifting folk-tinged pop, while Charles Lieurance's lyrics add a spooky,unsettling element as they spin their dark, literate stories.

The packaging of "Everybody's Somebody's Monster" is also notable, thanks to the intricate artwork created by Harry Dingman III, former guitarist for the Millions.

The new song set for its debut at the taping has a purpose beyond simply capturing it's performance on video.

"It's makes it clear that this is an ongoing entity, that we're not just a recording project that's done," said Rebarber, who produces the Floating Opera in the recording studio in his Near South neighborhood home.

There's a very good possibility that Wednesday will be the only Floating Opera concert with a full band ever.

That makes it an important event in the history of Lincoln's original music scene and a must-see show for fans of the city's best music.

Lincoln Sunday Journal Star, July 27, 1997, by L. Kent Wolgamott:

From the follow-up file, Wednesday's performance of the Floating Opera at Nebraska Educational Television Network studios worked as the ensemble of many of Lincoln's best known musicians combined and recombined to produce some captivating sounds.

The star or Wednesday's show, which will be telecast on NETV in the fall or winter, was singer Lori Allison, who was on stage for the entire 45 minute performance, delivering her usual rich, expressive singing.

The best moment of the night came when Heidi Ore, singer of Mercy Rule, took the lead vocals on a pair of songs and Allison sang harmony - an arrangement that put the city's best female rock singers on the same stage and let them work.

Daily Nebraskan, February 20, 1997, by Cliff Hicks:

Albums like "Everybody's Somebody's Monster are a gulp of fresh wather in the seas of salty offerings abound in the music scene right now.

Many things set Floating Opera apart from the staples available on the radio. The first of these is the voices.

Lori Allison (formerly of The Millions), Heidi Ore (of Mercy Rule) and Tammy VanDeBogart offer spectacular singing, from quiet to soaring.

The other thing that helps is the strong sound of a piano. Too many bands these days slam guitars around and call it music - well-organized music makes a nice change of pace.

While the lyrics are deep and moody, the music itself is lighter, providing a great contrast between the two. The melodies on "Everybody's..." could be described as ephemeral.

The sort of pulsing beat of "So Flies Theresa" marks one of the few truly upbeat songs on the album and sounds truly playful.

A personal favorite is a ballad cover of Bob Mould's "Makes No Sense At All." The song becomes focused on the lyrics - a definite change from the original version.

"Teenage Death Song" simply is comic because it lambastes the typical suicide mentality, but keeps that haunting form that lingers through most of "Everybody's Somebody's Monster."

On occasion, the drums sound a little limp and flat, but this is excusable considering millions weren't spent on studio production.

The other tiny annoyance is the sudden ending of "Lisa's Limbs," which just stops abruptly instead of giving the listerner an actual finish.

Of course, "Lisa's Limbs", along with "Dressed In Seven" and "Forever In June" are from Floating Opera's first work, so times change, perhaps.

"Everybody's Somebody's Monster" is a great piece of work from a bunch of truly talented people. It's flaws can be overlooked, and further works from these folks are eagerly anticipated.

Fact Sheet Five

Fact Sheet Five has indicated to us that they will give us the following review (or something near to it) in their next issue: "A very touching album featuring the rich vocals of Lori Allison. It's quite a varied album, ranging from harder pop rock to solf folk-like songs. Most enjoyable is the cover of Bob Mould's "Makes No Sense At All".

Omaha Reader, July 17, 1997, by Kelly Powell, concert preview:

The Floating Opera will be the featured act on July 23rd which will likely be their only live performance ever. What are the Floating Opera, you ask? The band features members from the Millions and Mercy Rule along with others from Lincoln's musical heirarchy. Richard Rebarber is the man behind the music and is directly responsible for the brilliant release "Everybody's Somebody's Monster" on ismist Records from lincoln. The disc is a somber joyride of intricate melodies and ideas beautifully put together. Needles to say, this will be an excellent show to catch, so give them a call and reserve yourself a seat.

Husker Du website

Not exactly a review, but Floating Opera warrants a mention on the Husker Du website.