Review Summary: An impressive debut from probably the most exciting Australian indie rock band out there today.
If you don’t live in Australia, you probably haven’t heard of Ball Park Music. If you do, there's still a good chance the Brisbane five-piece have slipped under your radar, and that would be a massive shame. Here is a band that had near-perfected their distinct flavour of youthful indie rock by their debut album, 2011’s Happiness And Surrounding Suburbs. It’s a sound you’re likely familiar with, but BPM manage to be a lot more endearing than the average young indie outfit.
Much of the band's likability is due to the old-school approach the band takes to their music, releasing quality records in quick succession and touring frenetically. There’s no other priority for the band than pleasing their fans, and that's the way it should be. Lead singer Sam Cromack understands the importance of a charismatic frontman, and controls both the band’s live show as well as H&SS with his unique voice; growls, yelps, drawls and other vocal inflections punctuate the album, serving to startle and excite the listener. Additional touches such as Jennifer Boyce’s back-up vocals in “Glass Jar” and a keyboardist Paul Furness doubling on the trombone for “iFly” make songs feel like they were constructed with care and purpose.
Opener “Literally Baby” is frantic and exasperating with Cromack's screaming and the heavy accompanying piano riff – it’s a bit much but don’t be put off by what is probably the most intense song on the album. Second track “It’s Nice To Be Alive” sees the band calm down and seemingly effortlessly create an amazing mid-tempo feel-good jam, purpose-built for sing-alongs. It’s probably one of the best indie-rock songs of 2011, and it’s beauty lies within the male-female vocal harmonies that also feature later on in the touching ballads “Alligator” and “Birds Down Basements”. The weaker points of Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs are short, bass-heavy songs like “Sad Rude Future Dude” and “Rich People Are Stupid”, being somewhat immature and forgettable but still fun enough to not derail the album’s momentum.
A highly important part of what makes this band special is their lyrics. They’re sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes absurd, but most of the time down-to-earth and relatable. Lines like “Don’t stress, that’s dumb, I’m here and it’s nice to be alive” and “It’s been a long day, I’m absolutely aching to lie down next to my girl, and tell her all about it” are both refreshing in this decade, where such straightforward messages are often overcomplicated or left unsaid.
It's not easy to be catchy and accessible, as well as intelligent and intricate in songwriting, yet the band's ability to tick all these boxes means there is much to enjoy on this album for both casual and elitist music listeners. Hopefully Ball Park Music can show the rest of the world that great indie rock music is being produced in Australia, and it shouldn't be ignored. If you’re a fan of the genre you’re guaranteed to find enjoyment in Happiness And Surrounding Suburbs’ combination of quirk, pragmatism and sheer entertainment value.