Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 21/4
Written by: HES on 24/05/2016 14:41:54
When our scribe Tim ‘TL’ Larsen earlier reviewed Modern Baseball’s debut album ”Sports” and the subsequent ”You’re Gonna Miss It All”, the main thing holding him back from falling madly in love with the band seemed to be a case of accomplished song-smiths rather than sound-smiths. Their latest release “Holy Ghost” is set to finally propel the band into the slacker pop-punk hitlist which they have been so close to getting onto many times. Not only does the record continue the tradition of writing lyrical hooks that are ready for passive aggressive Facebook updates, but it also contains a more catchy take on the band’s usual style of composition, which would otherwise be known to heavily rely on the lines delivering the sting. But don’t worry, the lyrics are still the main focal point of the record, and the band delivers the usual amount of one-liners for your brain to hang on to, so much so that your head will be a bubble of stuck Modern Baseball poetry for days.
“Holy Ghost” opens with an acoustic recording of Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald singing in what sounds like a living room, paying homage to the band’s original construction as an acoustic duo; slowly easing in a distorted sound of a guitar that transports us from spoken words to a full-fledged rock anthem in the shape of “Wedding Singer”, which sports a Menzingers-worthy guitar line — clean, clear and airy. And here we are: only two songs in and Modern Baseball has grown in terms of musical maturity and raised the focus on the holistic aspects of sound, which is just what the band needed. The follow-up to the opening combo, “Note to Self”, continues to convince with a guitar riff full of energy combined with lazy drums, slowly building up in the bridge toward the soaring chorus that is playfully withheld.
Among other highlights — and there are many — is the track “Mass”, which includes one of the best choruses I’ve heard in a while, both in terms of energy and the compilation of both actual rhymes and alliterations: ”My baby's in Massachusetts and all this booze is useless. Sunset sing my scratched out sighing soul to sleep. And the cashier here is ruthless - Jeanette, I wrote your name down, but I'd hate that job as much as you do if I was stuck between Barton and Binghamton too”. The mundanity of the touring musician’s life, driving through a small town in America with grandiosity and explosiveness in the construction, is a general theme of an album that toggles both the introvert nature of its two main composers, but also finally dares to be more than just another slacker-indie punk band in the vein of recent 90’s inspired trends.
One of the lines that has stuck with me the most is the opening line of “Everyday”, which once again pinpoints the kind of relationships my generation seems to bond over: ”You hold my hand, you hold your liquor. Projection screen had ceased its flicker. You gave me time to take of your truth - I was starved and you were full”, alcohol-fuelled and lopsided. “Hiding” makes use of several creative effects that Modern Baseball hasn’t showed us before. The start of the song is classic Modern Baseball — acoustic guitar and almost spoken word-ish verses — but as the verse builds up, so does the drumming until it ends abruptly, appearing as echoed, distorted dance music in the back of the soundscape, transitioning the song into a punk rock chorus which forewarns a goodbye to the ‘prettier’ part of the album, and finally showing a wilder side of the otherwise so well-brought-up sound the band has been producing so far.
The following songs are characterized by this wilder sound, exemplified in the pure indie-punk chorus of “Coding These to Lukens”, the insisting guitars of “Breathing in Stereo”, which also sports yelling vocals with attitude, and “Apple Cider I Don’t Mind”, which almost comes across as a Mr. Brightside-era The Killers-reminiscent, danceable rock anthem. This more extrovert section of the record ends in the summarizing “What If”, which ties a nice knot on the ‘new’ sound of Modern Baseball with the opening stinger: ”When I was younger I thought about caring”. And it really seems that Modern Baseball has moved from being the introvert, overthinking band with too many complexes to ever really turn into something anyone else really gets; into a beautiful awkward butterfly soaring in only momentary lapses of self-doubt in the closer “Just Another Face”.
Download: Mass, Hiding, Breathing in Stereo, Wedding Singer, Note To Self
For The Fans Of: The Hotelier, The Front Bottoms, The Weakerthans
Release date 13.05.2016
Run for Cover Records