“The more you play Weirder and Weirder the more it sounds like a greatest hits set. Anything here could have been a single.”
Feelin’ woozy, anyone? You will be after you blast Ball Park Music’s seventh album. And in all the right ways.
It’s exactly as it says on the cover, weirder and weirder, more out on the edge, more colourful, more adventurous.
Sure, they have done that on their previous albums. Their past five all hit the top 10 while they built their reputation as one of the most popular live bands in the country. Weirder and Weirder went to No 2.
The Brisbane-based BPM has always been a band that packs a fair bit of existential angst and confusion at coping in a fast-changing world into their lyrics. But they place these concerns into grin-inducing pop tunes and catchy-as-can-be riffs that invite you to dance your troubles away. Same here, but even more so.
In true BPM fashion, they didn’t even know they were making an album when they started recording, just having fun, experimenting at their studio. That experiment became Right Now, a glorious technicolour tune which captures all the exuberance and excitement of a band going for it and thinking, “What is this? Have no idea but whatever it is it feels great!”
That’s a gift that prolific songwriter and lead singer Sam Cromack brings to the band, and his colleagues back him to the hilt.
The band has always had full control of the recording process at their own Prawn Records studio in Brisbane. I’ve suggested in the past maybe it’s time they let some of that go and tried working in another studio with a different producer. And every song here is proof how wrong a critic can be: these arrangements and the quality of the songcraft show they were right to keep things in-house.
Manny opens proceedings with a swirling keyboard, hints at the Tomorrow Never Knows drum pattern, locks in on a crunchy riff while Cromack sings, “The last time they put us down we had to slow down and man it felt good.” Like a dream, it all makes sense in the moment as BPM make a leap into their future.
No band makes it to seven albums without writing great songs but they have never packed 12 of them of this quality into the one place like they do here. The more you play Weirder and Weirder the more it sounds like a greatest hits set. Anything here could have been a single.
Pleb Rock, despite the title, is a wall of sound that features the kind of sonic variety associated with the golden era of the ’60s, from strings to tape-played-backwards bits, drum freakouts and what sounds like an AI voice delivering some dystopian bad news. Matched with one of Cromack’s most irresistible vocal melodies, that’s quite a trip.
Even better is Stars in my Eyes, where a distorted electric guitar meets massed choir voices and celestial strings and horns. Anyone remember American psych-pop-choir The Polyphonic Spree? This song is in that kind of territory.
Caramel assures us everything is going to work out okay, even if “I hear God still cries out for his mummy/Especially when he’s feeling low”.
This is another great Cromack melody, given a golden glow with a string arrangement and a nod to Sgt Pepper at the end.
A Field to Break Your Back In is as edgy as Caramel is musically sweet, building to some howling electric guitar.
And right at the heart of the matter is the title tune, certainly one of the finest songs Cromack has ever written.
“When my mumma was young they put a bun in the oven,” he sings. “That was me, that was me/I am the bun baby/Now my mind is a casserole/Every year there is one more thing/It’s getting weirder and weirder out there.”
There are a lot of moving parts and textures in this song but the end result is something even greater than the parts.
The second half of the album is as strong as the opening seven tracks, with just acoustic guitar and luscious strings on Dean Hanson’s sublime love song Beautiful Blueberries and a reminder to enjoy every sandwich on The Present Moment.
The song Weirder and Weirder is an anthem for strange times. From track one to 12, this is an album that is never afraid to let its freak flag fly. With a smile on its face and the kind of timeless melodies that gladden the heart.
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