Modern Baseball


Written by: TL on 04/09/2013 18:16:07

Back in the days when was basically just a couple of drunken morons masquerading as authorities on quality in music, it wasn't uncommon for reviews to surface embarrasingly behind schedule. Now however, having grown our number of morons, we generally feel like things are starting to appear in more timely fashion (and we hope you agree), yet apparently it's still not entirely impossible for something to fall through the cracks. Enter Maryland quartet Modern Baseball, whose LP "Sports" dates all the way back to November of last year, yet arrived on my list in the spring, only to somehow fall off and not be remembered 'til about a month ago, since when I've been trying to give it listens squeezed in between more current releases.

The album originally came to me advertised as something for the fans of Motion City Soundtrack or Say Anything, but to begin with, I'd say the sound is far from the colourfully polished gloss of theirs, and closer to the basement-level, fuzzy independent punk-rock of bands like The Hotel Year, Into It. Over It. or even Titus Andronicus. The instrumentals are warm and organic in sound, and generally content with relying on tried-and-true arrangements that take a supporting role to the main focus, which is clearly on the actual songs and their quirky content. Even the singing is a nasal and very down-to-earth affair, coming off less impressive in terms of range or variety of tone, than in terms of great enunciation and an attitude that shifts very subtly back and forth between a subdued introversion and a slightly more high-strung, confessional mood (the delivery reminds me a bit of Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull actually).

The reason then, that it isn't false advertisement when "Sports" is recommended to fans of MCS and Say Anything, is that similarly to those two bands, the focus is very much on the lyrical content and its delivery. Quirky hooks like a reference to MCS classic "The Future Freaks Me Out" or the sardonic remark that "no monumental moment ever came from saying; cmon dude, just take one more shot" hence find their places among simple yet catchy melodies already on opener "Re-Do", while mentioning of every-day things like twitter, iphones and beer help the narratives of "Tears Over Beers" and "@chl03k" appear as further early highlights.

Much like with Into It. Over It. you can get the feeling listening to Modern Baseball that you've heard this or that part before in a bigger band's more colourful production, which makes for a welcoming feeling of familiarity. Unfortunately the two bands share another similarity in how the bare-bones production and laid-back instrumentation make things feel a bit too samey down the stretch, and moving across the middle of the record, it becomes apparent that Modern Baseball aren't quite as amazingly consistent lyricists as likely influences Say Anything, at least not enough for that element to keep the listener constantly interested through to the end.

All things considered then, I think "Sports" is a record that casts Modern Baseball as more accomplished songsmiths than soundsmiths, yet also as a friendly acquaintance that has stories to tell that, while they might have your attention drifting on and off, will still wake you up to the occasional good bit, which is likely to lodge itself in your memory for a deceptively long time. It's an interesting first full-length for the band, that should turn some heads in genre-circles, but it's not quite a hype-gainer or a career-maker. In effect: A solid foundation for touring and growing the band's fanbase outside of the local scene, and to carry interested parties like myself over, while waiting to see if a follow-up sees the band finding a key to taking things to the next level.


Download: Re-Do, Tears Over Beers, @chl03k, Cooke, Re-Do, Re-Done
For The Fans Of: sort of a cross between Motion City Soundtrack, Say Anything, The Hotel Year, Into It. Over It and Andy Hull?

Release Date 27.11.2012
Lame-O Records / Run For Cover Records

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