Brisbane is one of Australia’s finest exporters of guitar-based indie, boasting the likes of The Go-Betweens, Powderfinger, and in more recent times The Jungle Giants and Hungry Kids of Hungary. Another name to add to this already impressive repertoire is Ball Park Music, who in the last two years have already put out two acclaimed albums, garnering a reputation for their own brand of quirky, energetic indie guitar-pop. On their latest release ‘Puddinghead’, Sam Cromack and his counterparts deliver an album that is more experimental; both in the context of the songs themselves, and also in the process from which they were created. The band decided to take a creative step forward on their third consecutive album, by opting to record and produce the project in its entirety. In terms of the finish product, the album explores new musical territory for the band, with its complex yet cheerful vocal harmonies, varied guitar sounds and a more liberal exploration of tempo. Overall the album has a creative edge that was lacking in their previous two albums.
The album begins triumphantly with the lead track and debut single ‘She Only Loves Me When I’m There’. The song begins with Cromack cooing softly over keyboard sounds, before the loud, heavily fuzzed-up guitars kick in. The chorus is trademark Ball Park Music with the driven guitars followed by some ‘ooh ahs’ from the rest of the band. ‘Next Life Already’ sounds reminiscent of the bands’ debut, whilst still exploring new areas of sound with the use of small electronic interludes and synth sounds. In contrast ‘A Good Life is the Best Revenge’ could have easily fitted in onto ‘Museum’, with Sam’s Soaring vocals backed by rolling drums, stomping piano and heavily fuzzed-up guitars.
The highlight of the album however comes in the form of a slower number, titled ‘Teenager Pie’, reinstating Ball Park Music’s tradition of obscurely adolescent centric song titles and lyrics. It begins slowly with soft drums and a high-pitched electric piano line. Sam croons about ‘filling up with regret, like a bleeding dumb truck driver’, before the track builds with smooth choral accompaniment by the band, before descending in to a melodic guitar line backed by piano and electronic warbles. The proceeding track ‘Trippin the Light Fantastic’ sees the Sam ‘getting his mojo back’ as he delivers one of the catchiest choruses on the album.
Although ‘Puddinghead’ is filled with plenty of sing-alongs like ‘Everything is Shit Except my Friendship With You’ and ‘Girls From High School’, some tracks fail to live up to their potential, highlighting the downside to having no producer. ‘Cocaine Lion’ sounds brash and seems to change tempo intermittently, whilst ‘Struggle Street’ begins with promise, yet fails to incorporate the experimental synth keyboard ideas smoothly, despite the strong chorus.
Notwithstanding these criticisms, Sam and the band should be commended for choosing to diverge from the contrived traditional ‘verse-chorus’ arrangement for most of the album. On occasion,‘Puddinghead’ sounds overdone with experimentation, however, there are enough catchy choruses, upbeat guitars and quirky lyrics to remind fans why Ball Park Music are so beloved.