18 June 2016

Modern Baseball - Holy Ghost

I did not think I would be returning to this band in a hurry......  Two years ago on the recommendation of one of my friends, I reviewed 'You're Gonna Miss It All' (review linked here, it might not be clever to do this) by Modern Baseball.  It was an album I found to be immature, childish and made Blink 182 look like the height of musical elegance.  I found the music to be good, but the words just ruined the experience for me and I pretty much shat on the band from a big height.  So, you might be asking why I have picked up their latest album to review?  Well, to be honest I think all bands deserve at least two chances.  I do it more often than I care to admit and it sometimes leads to some unexpected and brilliant moments where I eat a huge slice of humble pie.  This album is an album of two halves, literally the first half is written by Jake Ewald and the second half by Brendan Lukens which acts as a document of the experiences that the band have encountered in the last two years since "You're Gonna Miss It All".  It is also the first record where they have an outside influence on the album, as it is produced by Joe Reinhart So will this be me eating humble pie once more, or will it be me bitching once again......

Starting the album is "Holy Ghost" starts with a slow strumming, with a pray to someone and a sea of pain with haunting visions floating around the protagonist.  It is a short introduction to the album, but already it is a 100% improvement from anything I have heard before and my interest is engaged straight away.  "Wedding Singer" is an unashamed, massive hooked punk noise that takes the music from their last album and gives it a massive boast of energy, melancholy and emotion; yeah, there is the odd fuck-bomb and such, but they no longer sound like teenage angst on a rage trip.  It sounds like a story unfolding with a great musical backdrop for the words to take form.  "Note to Self" follows on with a song that reminds me of the slower moments of Homegrown with a massive hook, self-depreciating humour, waves of emotion and apathy, a lot of energy and a large amount of energy.  It is a song that I can identify with lack of self-belief and desire for the gloom to be lifted.  It is not the most energetic of numbers, but it suits the subject matter completely and it is something I can really connect with. 

“Mess” is a short, sharp tale of long distance long, exasperation of the situation and it is draped over a Replacement-esque tune that gives the song a positive energy.  The vocals sound as if they are tripping over themselves in a few places, giving it a slightly uneven feeling for me and a slight rush to the verses – as if everything needs to be said right here & now, a few seconds later would be too late for this tune.  It is alright, but not one I would site as the best example of Modern Baseball at this point.  “Every Day” is a song of a dysfunctional relationship, full of conflicting emotions, endings and mixed messages.  Musically it has taken their previous formula to a new level, but it is still just emotional punk, with a dash of Replacements once again – it is so simple in one way, but they pull off the song almost perfectly; the sudden ending jarred t for me, but it is still a good number and continues the good form of the album. “Hiding” takes their sound to a new level for me, a slow number about avoidance and the emotional upheaval that comes from being cut-off and leaving the real world behind.  It keeps up the slow, acoustic pace for a while; then the drums pick up and silence with a sudden jolt.  But the end is a song that will have people singing in unison as the band smash through the ending with a power & race I have not heard since the Ataris were in their prime.  It makes the hairs on your neck stand to attention, the shivers head down your arms and it might just be the best song of this record.  “Coding These to Lukens” carries on that good form; a bolt of positivity to the music, the lyrics are dealing with paranoia and doubt which contradicts the vibe of the music in a way that can only be created with this sort of punk.  The song can never be accused of being the most complex or difficult number, but that is not the aim of the song; it is just a release of pent up emotions and it is kept very short and to the point, definitely one of the best of the album.  

"Breathing in The Stereo" is another short, sharp, shock of a song, a sub-two minutes with a tale of long-distance heartache, mixed in with the doubts and curses in one’s head at this sort of situation.  It is a quick number, full of energy and charm which is mixing in well with the rest of the album; the mind-set is one that a lot of people will be able to identify with and one that will connect with many more, it is a great number that does not outstay its welcome.  "Apple Cider, I Don't Mind" is the ninth song, starting off with a blunt question about love.  It is a song about the end of a relationship and dealing with the confusing mess of emotions and the fact that there is no right or wrong at times.  It is a different sound to most of the album, it is a brave number to have on the album sound-wise and it shows that not every short song is going to be a smash & grab punk number - I like it, but something is not totally grabbing me here as it reminds me a bit of the band Deep Blue Something and their hit "Breakfast at Tiffany's".  The penultimate song of the album is called "What If...." is all about find out that caring is a good thing and that not caring maybe was not the right way to go.  Starting off with a sound that is akin to the feeling of tripping over your own two feet in a hurry, it is not quite hit an even footing for me and it just does not sit well in my mind.  It is well played, but I cannot get into this number.  Ending the album is "Just Another Face" which deals with Brendan Lukens manic depression which he was diagnosed with during the making of this album.  It is brave to admit this to the world; it takes a lot of guts to do that sort of thing.  Depression is a hard thing to go through and deal with, reaching out for help is part of the road to recovery.  Musically, it is similar to "Apple Cider, I Don't Mind" with a big dramatic arch that is set apart from their usual smash, pop punk tunes and it hints towards other musical ventures, that there is something else to come.  The mixture of the two side, progression and illness, is where we find the end of this album, which sort of sums up this album for me.

I think that this album is a good and solid pop punk album, dealing with growing up, depression, changing times and what every human has to experience.  Considering how much I did not like the last album, I cannot view this album as anything other than a good piece of work from the band.  However, why is the work not higher that it is?  Well, as much as I understand the album and can appreciate it, it is also one that is not for me and it is aimed at a different set of people.  People who will be making their own way in the world and need their stories to identify with in others, I am not that person anymore who would have dived into this with open arms and acceptance as I have been through this and out the other side.  I have also struggled to end this blog for a while, it has never seemed right in my mind for a lot of the time, as if I was not getting the full picture and I had to struggle in point when this sort of punk is meant to be easy.  However, this is down to me and not down to the power of the performance.  But that does not mean I do not understand this record and can see the improvement to the band.  It is a good album with touches of brilliance, I hope the next one improves on this once again.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

Top track - Every Day

You can purchase Holy Ghost from Amazon here

You can visit the Modern Baseball website here (which also has a store where you can purchase the album)

You can follow the activities of Modern Baseball on Facebook here

You can stream Holy Ghost on Spotify here

You can stream Holy Ghost on Deezer here

You can stream Holy Ghost on Tidal here

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