Ball Park Music – Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs

Fans of the Brisbane six-piece Ball Park Music will find the long awaited LP Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs to be overflowing with the same brand of infectiously joyous pop/rock that has already earned them frequent radio airplay and a place as a triple j ‘Next Crop Artist’.

The release has a unique and playful feel, evident from the bombastic opening track, Literally Baby, with its buzzing guitars, jangling keyboards and lead singer Sam Cromack’s distinctive wail. It’s a bouncing kick-start to the album and is followed by the sweetly uplifting It’s Nice to Be Alive and the rollicking Sad Rude Future Dude.

But despite the familiarly upbeat nature of the openers, Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs is not a case of the same old, same old. In fact, it came as a pleasant surprise to see just how far the band was able to vary their sound and instrumentation, showing us a side of the Ball Park not seen from previous releases like the profanity-laden iFly. The haunting harmonies of Alligator and Birds Down Basement, for example, provide beautifully acoustic and almost ethereal experiences, with nary an f-word in sight.

Swinging from the raucous to the melodic, and from the energetic to the wistful, Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs is an eclectic jumble of uniquely individual songs, which unfortunately results in some abrupt transitions. Namely when the fade-out ending of the balladic All I Want is You is suddenly interrupted by the kitschy guitar romp of Rich People Are Stupid. Nothing sums this contrast up better than the eight track, Shithaus, which starts off with a chunky bass line so heavy it almost snarls, but then magically manages to resolve to light-hearted piano-pop.

Yet throughout the song (and the rest of the album), the music remains joyous, compelling and catchy as hell, tied together with perfect pop harmonies and sprinkled liberally with handclaps. All in all, this is vibrant, uplifting and ultimately happy music. Each song seems to be infused with the band’s own quirky character and irrepressible spirit, to produce a varied yet compelling album.