March 1, 2011

Review: The Baseball Project: Volume 2: High and Inside

As long as there's been records, there's been novelty records. Having grown up on my share of Dr. Demento, I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for 'em.

And that's what we have here, performed by a supergroup of sorts: In 2008, The Dream Syndicate's Steve Wynn put together the Baseball Project with like-minded hardball fan Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows and Minus 5. McCaughey sidelines with R.E.M. and recruited Peter Buck to play bass, while Wynn recruited his wife, Linda Pitmon of Zuzu's Petals and dozens of other records in your collection to drum. Together they've managed to crank out not one, but now two, full albums of songs about the legends, the characters, and the legendary characters that make baseball so much fun to follow in the first place.

Second albums of this sort are usually problematic - premises overstay their welcome and songs become even more contrived and forced - but Volume 2... easily bests it's predecessor. It just has better songs, and a better performances by the band, probably aided by the month or so they spent on the road in 2009.

Sure, they hang a couple over the plate, but hit a few home runs of their own along the way: Wynn's opener about Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, "1976," has a catchy chorus and chiming 12 string, "Ichiro Goes To The Moon" is a driving McCaughey rocker, and "Here Lies Carl Mays," a ballad about the only pitcher in the history of baseball to kill a player with a pitch (in 1920), is an affecting heartbreaker.

There are plenty of guest stars, some more noticeable than others. The Hold Steady's Craig Finn offers Twins booster-ism and makes "Don't Call Them Twinkies" sound like a Hold Steady outtake.

My only regret about the album is it's high Red Sox content would have played better before our pre-World Series win attitude adjustment. Roger Clemens made us angrier, and the tragedies of Tony Conigliaro and Bill Buckner weighed so much more heavily on the Red Sox fan's deeply bruised psyche, before 2004. We're mature enough to handle it all now. I think.

-Michael Piantigini

The Baseball Project: intertubes | MySpace

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