Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Baseball Project "Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails"

Hearing that Peter Buck was involved with an album entirely devoted to my favorite sport on KUT was a bit of a surprise to me. As an R.E.M. fan, my interests were piqued. As a baseball fan, the deal was sealed.

The Baseball Project is the fifteen-years-in-the-making love-child of Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey, who discovered one another's love for the game all the way back in 1992 but were never able to get around to recording until last year. Fifteen years must have given them plenty of time to think about what they wanted to record because the subject matter ranges from unjust statistical requirements for perfect games to the mysterious death of Ed Delahanty to reminiscence of a childhood trip to a pennant race game between the Dodgers and the Giants to Black Jack McDowell's middle finger.

Honestly, the subject matter is particularly appealing to me. There's no point in glossing over the fact that my fandom of baseball will largely affect my feelings on this album. A unique point-of-view is given to the McDowell finger-incident at Yankee Stadium, as Scott McCaughey and Mike Mills had actually been partying together within days of the incident. The importance of Fernandomania to the Mexican population of Los Angeles is illustrated in a Spanish language ode to Fernando Valenzuela by a displaced former resident of Chavez Ravine. Harvey Haddix's lost perfect game in the 13th inning and the frustration in the pursuit of perfection encapsulated by the preposterousness of having pitched 12 perfect innings only to have your team not score a single run for their cause is the stuff that makes baseball's lore so rich and endearing. Each song is complete with liner note introductions to each song detailing what informed them.

A rock album about these things will more than likely appeal to me. That being said, I have The Minus 5 "Down with Wilco" and have listened to it twice in the five or six years I've owned it, and I'm no longer the insane R.E.M fan I once was. Me liking this album was no sure thing. But songs like "Ted Fucking Williams" with its Bolan-y rollick or the deft exploration of baseball's duplicitous villification of Mark McGwire of "Broken Man" or the country rock stomp "Harvey Haddix" are good songs, regardless of subject matter.

So, yes, there's been a good record made about baseball. Bet you never thought you'd see that day. And now you can listen to an album in which David Wells is name-dropped in not one, but two songs, and mentioned in the liner notes to another song.

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