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In a lot of ways, Ball Park Music’s Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs was the ideal debut record. To paraphrase, it was an album that jumped up and down, forever, smashing out six singles with unyielding fervour and neglecting to draw breath for forty minutes. It also delivered what it promised – happiness – across all twelve tracks, deliberately fingerpainting with primary colours even when dealing with the sticky issues: masturbation, murder and sometimes, combinations thereof. Really, the results speak for themselves: sold-out tours, billing on just about every major festival in the country, and a metric f**kton of accolades. So what next?
Enter Museum. The second record from Brisbane’s most boisterous five-piece arrives hot on the heels of its older brother, with a chip on its shoulder from the burden of expectation. Put simply, it’s a good’un. What makes this an interesting album, though, is that it’s a good’un for completely different reasons to those that made Happiness such a success.
On the whole, Museum dares to be exploratory, to find footing, to take pause. It’s a lateral move that pays big dividends for the band, showcasing their skill for layered and considered arrangements that pull their punches just at the right time. It’s a clever decision mostly because it positions Ball Park Music as more than just a good-times band: they’re a band who can kiss you quietly in the corner (Jen, please?) just as easily as they can show up drunk at your wedding.
Part and parcel of this display of depth is the re-arrangement of the colour spectrum the band utilised with Happiness. Obnoxious reds and blues are used much more selectively – the glorious chorus to Fence Sitter, the flat-out furious bridge in Pot of Gold – in favour of colours that the band smooshed together themselves. As a result, the overarching sense of joy that marked the band’s debut gets all mixed up in the foray: when frontman Sam Cromack sings the would-be vindicatory refrain to Great Display of Patience, he delivers it with a sense of urgency that takes the song to a much darker place. Magically, it all fits within the framework laid by Cromack’s personal, idiosyncratic pop songs, enhancing what is a completely different, steadfastly enjoyable listening experience.
None of this is to mention the record’s finest moment, which is unsurprisingly also its most tender. Coming Down, it’s called, and it’s a textbook example of everything that makes Museum endearing. Simply, what makes Museum a remarkable piece of work is that it takes everything that has been so successful for Ball Park Music for all of twelve months, puts it in its top pocket, and keeps right on looking for new ways to impress. Rest assured, it does.