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Musical side projects can be a mixed bag. When Pixies bassist Kim Deal brought together The Breeders to record sophomore album Last Splash it was great. When Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes dropped in 2014 it was divisive. When The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger released Primitive Cool…well the less said the better.
Fortunately for Ball Park Music’s frontman Sam Cromack his solo recording project My Own Pet Radio’s debut EP Goodlum serves up some worthwhile tracks and sketches an interesting sonic portrait of the talented Brisbane artist.
Cutting loose from his day job, Sam Cromack returns to My Own Pet Radio armed with ambition. Marked by creative flair, Goodlum is a welcome offering.
After remaining largely inert due to the runaway success of Ball Park Music in 2010, Cromack announced the return of My Own Pet Radio earlier this year. Considering how far Ball Park has developed as a band since 2010 the prospect of the return of My Own Pet Radio certainly piqued curiosity as to how Cromack’s lo-fi beats and melancholy acoustic tracks might have developed after five years fronting one of Australia’s biggest indie acts.
Confessional leading track No Great Mystery contrasts verses which lament a dark yet comically comprehensive list of the vocalist’s flaws and misgivings with chorus ‘There’s no great mystery with me / I’m Sorry / I am what I am / Thanks for coming.” The melodic hooks, deft song craft, engaging lyrics and anthemic 90s vibe of No Great Mystery places it closer to the poppier indie rock of Ball Park Music than other tracks.
As with My Own Pet Radio’s pre-Goodlum release All Colours, songs Tangible Heart, Pink Freud, Enemy / Memory and You’re Right, There’s Nothing combine melancholy lyrics and subdued instrumentation to create some excellent tracks evocative of the indie rock of the The Shins and Band of Horses.
With flicking synths, glitchy production and elastic beats reminiscent of the trip hop of acts like Portishead fifth track Goodlum marks a tonal shift for the EP. The more laid back atmosphere of the EP comes to fore when Cromack nonchalantly raps lyrics “I see you staring at gravy“, before the track ultimately breaks down into a psychedelic solo. This relaxed tone is also reflected in the unstructured instrumental jams of Don’t Press Send, Companion and Luv Basement Theme. Never Ending Wave throws down some upbeat synth pop into the mix for good measure.
Track by track Goodlum might not match the catchy pop songcraft of Ball Park Music, but that might be the point. Goodlum is Cromack letting off a bit of creative steam. The real value of the EP is revealing a little more about Cromack and taking his music to creative places. While these disparate tracks might not gel together into an entirely cohesive album it does bring together a distinctively stripped back, occasionally kooky, experimental and at times melancholy signature sound which My Own Pet Radio will hopefully continue to explore.
While some might find irreverent track Goodlum hit or miss, Cromack’s talents as a songwriter are undeniable and the fact that great songs like No Great Mystery are seeing the light of day is reason in itself to give Goodlum a spin.
To celebrate My Own Pet Radio’s first album Cromack has recruited a temporary line up of Ben Fahey and Alex L’Estrange (of Brisbane act Denpasar) and Ryan Strathie (Holy Holy, Andy Bull, Sans Parents) to embark on a national tour kicking off at Sydney’s Newtown Social Club on November 12th.
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