Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Album Review - Puddinghead

by Ball Park Music (out April 4, 2014)

It's only too easy to like Brisbane's Ball Park Music and that whole 'little band that could' deal they've got going on. That they've managed to maintain their underdog status despite receiving overwhelming support from our national youth broadcaster is an even more impressive feat, but forget about that... their music really does have a special way of winning you over. Like I said, it's only too easy to like the music created by Sam Cromack, Jennifer Boyce, Paul Furness and the Hanson brothers (not those ones, but yes, those ones too). The question though is, with their third album Puddinghead, can they go from being that band a lot of people like, especially triple J, to that band a lot of people love?  

Cromack's opening croons to the radio hit, 'She Only Loves Me When I'm There' (next to be heard on the 2014 Hottest 100) will have you convinced you're listening to Muse. The Shakespearean lyrics support that. "Guildford, Guildford holy mother of, Helen, Jesus in the architraves." I can't be the only person thinking, "da fuq is dis?" But then the band kicks in, Boyce starts backing Cromack on the vocals and that playful energy that Ball Park Music does so well leaves you jumping for joy. Keeping in mind that 'commercial' isn't a dirty word, it's Ball Park Music's most commercial sounding track. Which just means everyone can enjoy it, dear snobby friends. Considering the album was self-produced and recorded in a fibro shack in northern Brisbane, that the sound is of such a high quality is a major win for the band.

The band doesn't shy away from showing off some new sides. I'm not saying they've changed like Gwen Stefani changed by going solo, but take a track like 'Trippin' The Light Fantastic'. It has all the ingredients needed to have reviewers calling Ball Park Music the heir to Powderfinger's vacated throne. And if you don't stop yourself to question whether Cromack is actually 'ole Bernard once or twice, more power to you, but there's a distinct Fanning-esque Aussie howl in the vocals on one of the brightest moments on Puddinghead. 'Cocaine Lion' is one of those exercises in light and shade that grunge lovers will be drawn to. The verses are subdued and suitably moody, while the choruses let loose with the rips and the roars. It's over far too quickly for my liking. Much like the 90s, the lyrics make little to no sense, but I'm sure someone will find a way to explain to me the point that's been missed. "I met a girl in space, the universe was flipping aces on the table, like a cocaine lion." Do your best, but it's drugs. It's definitely about drugs.

'Everything Is Shit Except My Friendship With You' is as wonderful as the title itself. If there was a track amongst those that made the album you could say holds true to everything we've come to know and enjoy about Ball Park Music, this one would be it. It's charming enough to earn a lot of replay and hopefully it gets the single treatment with quirky video to match ala 'It's Nice To Be Alive'.

So, that question about whether or not Ball Park Music can go from being a band a lot of people like to a band a lot of people love. I can tell you that there's definitely a lot to love about Puddinghead and it's easily their most accessible album. The sound is more confident and sure of itself, the hooks have gotten hook-ier and that holds at least some potential for crossover success. Will it push Ball Park Music to that next level of popularity? At the end of the day I doubt they care and I'm sure their longtime fans don't care either. When the music is this good, I'm not going to care either. I'm just going to enjoy it and wish them the best. At the very least, we'll see Puddinghead show up in the J awards at the end of the year.

Matt Bond gives Puddinghead three and a half Hutchence heads out of five...

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