Modern Baseball hits home run
Second full-length LP from Philly pop-punk band continues awkward auditory adventure
Earlier this year, I came across a tweet from emo-rock duo Dads, forecasting Philadelphia indie-punk group Modern Baseball “will be the blink 182 of our time”. With blink-182 ranking as my all-time favorite band, I found the comparison bold — and surprisingly, ultimately true. As the group gears up after a release of their second LP, “You’re Gonna Miss It All,” their mastery of the generational voice rings clear.
The group’s debut album “Sports” blew the doors off late 2012 — enough to warrant a wider reissue the following year. Modern Baseball’s signature blend of folk-accented pop-punk is supplemented by the lyrics of best friends Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald, who chronicle a year in the life of awkward 20-somethings from a dorm room at Drexel University.
While blink-182 made a name for themselves as the voice of millennials prancing around naked during their extended stay in juvenalia, Modern Baseball’s poetic nods to social networking and the haze of the college party scene color their version of growing up with equally successful insight.
Where “You’re Gonna Miss It All,” could’ve been a half-hearted extension of the band’s preceding work and still have satiated appetites, it fortunately neither rests on the laurels of past successes nor exists to completely revamp expectations. There are inklings of the band’s past, whether in the unassuming stomp of opener “Fine, Great” or in the brash, double-time nostalgia presented in “Apartment”, but the album’s surefire standouts remain indicative of a sonic growth spurt.
Previously, vocal duties were largely left to Lukens, a decision which shaped the band’s sound to mirror the puerile psychoanalysis of Say Anything. On the delightfully simple “Broken Cash Machine”, however, Ewald gets to man the microphone. Although his voice doesn’t stray too far from Lukens’ near-monotone delivery, his spitting about “[his] eyes burning holes in your old pictures” gives this breakup battle soundtrack more ferocious punch than Taylor Swift could ever dream of.
In another dose of variety, drummer Sean Huber steps out from behind the kit to deliver a rousing vocal take on the tortured first single, “Your Graduation”. His powerful vocals soak up the pain of losing a first love on a drunken night of goodbyes, choking them down with a smoky, ferocious growl.
Despite providing a more holistic glimpse of the band’s membership, lyrical conventions on the record don’t stray far from time-tested trademarks. Silliness abounds on the jaunty “Rock Bottom”, where a line coyly suggests, “no amount of aspirin or pizza could help this from hurting.” The same song invokes a sense of harmless voyeurism, as Lukens wonders, “Is he here? / Are you making out? / I can hear you guys on the couch / Shut up and make out. / Do something already. I’m waiting.” The lack of introspection is, in some instances, a hilarious hallmark — definitely contributing to the appeal of “Sports” overall — but here, it’s a bit stale.
Still, there are glimpses of wordsmithing which showcase definite development. The sharp “Charlie Black” spills over with “fake lives, but nothing like, tangible,” and the cathartic closer “Pothole” finds a narrator begging for acceptance, where he “can be every crack in your concrete / if you let [him] off easy.” The latter track, which finds Modern Baseball in stripped-down form, endcaps the record with incredible force.
However, the track which precedes it, “Two Good Things”, best summarizes Modern Baseball’s latest project as a whole. Over supercharged guitars, a clattering of cymbals and a warbly bassline, a diary stained with teenage existentialism is jostled open. “I’m still outside / Not doing anything wrong / Just walking around in circles replaying high school songs in my head / Because it’s better than lying awake.” Though the band has since put school on hold to pursue Modern Baseball full-time, there’s no doubt they continue to write on what they remember their wasted youth to be — and how they miss it all.