Album Review: Ball Park Music – ‘Puddinghead’
Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on April 4, 2014
Ball Park Music took the indie scene by storm in 2011, with the release of their criminally perfect debut album, Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs. Stellar songs like Literally Baby and It’s Nice to Be Alive, as well as the uncomfortably relatable Sad Rude Future Dude introduced us to a fun-loving five-piece intent on producing loud, lively and danceable music. Relentless touring and the release of their second album, Museum, has seen them mature, experiment, and further hone their sound, without forfeiting any of their abundant charm. Puddinghead is Ball Park’s first self-produced album, and their third release in the space of 24 months. It’s their most dynamic, layered and impressive record yet. And to think it was recorded in a floorless fibro shack from the ’70s…
Lead single She Only Loves Me When I’m There is deceptive. It starts softly, in the vein of Coming Down, with piano accompanying Sam Cromack’s dulcet vocals. But the angelic notes swiftly ascend into a driving, energy-packed track, exactly what we’ve come to expect from Brisbane’s reigning lords (and lady) of fun. The short and sharp Next Life Already, an ironically upbeat reflection on being stubborn and boring, extends on the single’s groundwork, with tight guitar and an irresistibly bubbly melody. By track three, you know Ball Park Music are on to a winner. A Good Life Is the Best Revenge is an absolute peach of a song; delicate funk and a swaggering beat, as well as a cautious venture into psychedelic territory, encapsulate the band’s inimitable ambition and talent.
Teenager Pie is a beautiful insight into the life and times of a hapless adolescent, commentating on the clueless but painful love affairs that plague one’s teenage years. Conversely, Trippin’ the Light Fantastic is a giddy and glorious tune about clubbing and ‘mojo’, and features the magnificently blunt lyric, ‘All I want is my friends and I to get high’. From the joyous highs of Trippin’ the Light Fantastic crawls Cocaine Lion, a song for the morning after. It’s about feeling shit, and having serious regrets about all that fucking booze. Cocaine Lion is grungy and honest, and kind of feels like the musical representation of a headache. It fluctuates between melancholic vibes and swirly, warbling, and somehow disorienting tones. Everything Is Shit Except My Friendship With You, in true Ball Park style, is both sweet and miserable. It’s a happy-sounding song imbued with sentiments of loneliness and depression. Struggle Street is a fitting successor, and is in much the same vein.
Error Playin’ sounds destined to be glitchy and experimental, but it’s quite the opposite. The song marches rhythmically through four minutes of slick guitar, invasive synth and dazzling harmonies to be one of Puddinghead‘s most unassuming yet memorable tracks. Polly Screw My Head Back On features a similar pounding beat, but with fluttering keys and carefully plucked chords. Girls from High School combines acoustic guitar, a honey-soaked vocal duet and elements of electro to cap off the album with a sound not dissimilar to that of their debut EP.
Puddinghead is a word for someone inept at the most basic of tasks. Ironically, it’s about as poor a description of Ball Park Music as possible. Their remarkable and ongoing evolution is such that no song from Puddinghead would fit comfortably on either of their previous albums. Far from being to the album’s detriment, however, this merely indicates the high production quality and myriad of fresh techniques the band have incorporated into the album. Powerful riffs, gorgeous harmonies and soaring vocals, intricately woven into delicious melodies, characterise what is their most accomplished release to date.
Ball Park Music are touring throughout April.