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Album Review: Ball Park Music ‘Every Night the Same Dream’

Ball Park Music 2016

“So what do you think of Ball Park Music” I casually asked a friend shortly after the release of Whipping Boy, the third single of ‘Every Night the Same Dream’. “I think it’s pretty sh*t,” he replied bluntly. “It’s just not classic Ball Park Music, is it?” He’s right…kind of.

Ball Park Music’s fourth studio album certainly takes a sonic departure from their previous efforts. In music, the only greater crime than an album that tries to push too many boundaries is a band that stays exactly the same.

Ball Park Music are the chameleons of the triple j scene. They emerged in 2011 with ‘Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs’, a tongue-in-cheek debut album that introduced lead singer Sam Cromack as a kind of ironic indie pop Dylan Baldi (of Cloud Nothings fame).

“…deep down, you always knew cowbells and Ball Park Music would go together like Charlie Sheen and bowling shirts.”

Their sophomore album ‘Museum’ saw a darker side of Ball Park Music. Where their first album had hinted at suburban discontent, ‘Museum’ was replete with songs that are at times self-loathing, melancholic, and defeatist, only occasionally being punctuated with the dangled carrot of possible happiness if you somehow manage to wade through all the sh*t and hypocrisy of 21st century life.

In hindsight, it was quintessential Ball Park Music to return, in an incredibly short period of time, with ‘Puddinghead’, an album full of outrageous pop hooks and sleek production. Hits rained like the Brisbane sky in December, and it easily cemented Ball Park Music in the top echelon of Australian indie-pop.

And now, with album number four coming in less than six years from the band, they’ve shifted shape with scarcely believable ease. I mean, deep down, you always knew cowbells and Ball Park Music would go together like Charlie Sheen and bowling shirts. That’s album opener Feelings, a sprawling, schizophrenic track with drum effects, croaky guitar, and wispy vocal harmonies.

See, when you’ve made your name as a purveyor of tight, caffeinated indie-pop, what’s more fun than taking a turn as loose, psych-jam outfit full of sonic meanderings and unexpected turns! It probably began before Tame Impala, but psych-rock elements are slowly finding themselves in a wider range of Australian music than ever.

It’s resulted in three great tracks and seven good ones. Pariah is a great track and Ball Park Music’s longest to date at 7:12. You can see the influence of Tame Impala’s Let It Happen in the extended psych breakdowns that layer more and more elements until its simply sonic anarchy, entirely unexpected after the simple, melancholic piano opening.

“This is the band’s most beautiful song since Glass Jar.”

Peppy is also a great track. The guitar work is initially most noticeable, a laconic Mac DeMarco surf rock style riff, before synthesisers and a crescendo of percussion take this track elsewhere. Again, you can’t help but be drawn to the extended outro of the song, a wonderful jam that builds and builds until its almost orchestral before ceasing suddenly, like dropping off the face of cliff.

Leef is the other great track. Cromack’s vocals strain for a new level of plaintiveness and Jennifer Boyce harmonising nicely with his pain. The guitar work is stripped right back, sounding more like Alligator (from ‘Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs’) than the new psych-inflected sound. In the outro, when Cromack and Boyce are proclaiming like Sunday preachers “I’ll love you forever!” over a sea of strings, there’s a wonderful emotional pay-off. This is the band’s most beautiful song since Glass Jar.

But where’s the weirdness, you may ask? The eccentricity? Well it’s there, but hidden within the very music itself. By recording mostly live, to a four-track tape, Ball Park Music took a conscious decision to sacrifice production values for a wonderful, fun looseness. Simply recording analogue is weird in a digital age. But it works with the rambling, spacious psych-pop presented in ‘Every Night the Same Dream’, comfortably the best Ball Park Music album since their debut.

Album Rating: 4.5

Ball Park Music ‘Every Night The Same Dream’ National Tour

Showtunes, Jindabyne
Thurs 22 SEP
Studio 56 @ Miami Marketta, Gold Coast
Solbar, Maroochydore
The Triffid, Brisbane
The Triffid, Brisbane
Anu Bar, Canberra
The Enmore Theatre, Sydney
SAT 1 October
Yours & Owls Festival, Woollongong
Barwon Club, Geelong
170 Russell, Melbourne
The Uni Bar. Hobart
FRI 14 October
The Gov, Adelaide
The Capitol, Perth
Discovery, Darwin
The Gapview Hotel, Alice Springs
The Venue, Townsville
Tanks, Cairns

Get Tickets HERE

Ball Park Music Septemebr 2016 tour