The Baseball Project
Vol 2: High & Inside
[YepRoc Records (2011)]
A lot of the charm of baseball lies in the more colorful aspects of its history, from the endless minutiae of the extensive statistics used to chart the game to the colorful and quirky players themselves (not to mention their great nicknames like “Shoeless Joe,” “Dizzy,” and “Doodles”).
That’s what’s delivered on this second disk by The Baseball Project, featuring Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey from R.E.M. and Steve Wynn and Linda Pitmon from the Miracle 3. While the overall tone is upbeat leaning toward goofy, there are a few more somber, contemplative songs, including a look at Roger Clemens’ steroid tarnish in “Twilight of My Career” and the story of Tony Conigliaro, his baseball stint cut short by a pitch to his head that damaged his eyesight, in “Tony (Boston’s Chosen Son).” But the serious songs are the exceptions. “Please Don’t Call Them Twinkies” is a tongue-in-cheek lament for the Minnesota Twins’ team nickname with a stinging heavy metal guitar solo. And player nicknames are celebrated in the rollicking “Panda and the Freak,” about the San Francisco Giants’ Tim “The Freak” Lincecum and Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval. The most fun song of all is “Ichiro Goes the Moon,” a Beach Boys-esque surf-rocking romp about one player who seemingly can do anything. All the songs are packed with facts, asides, anecdotes, and of course stats, all in service to that song’s story. The songwriters know their stuff and convey it with enthusiasm and downright glee.
The team is rounded out with pinch hitters Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan, and others. Fans to the end, the Baseball Project kicked off their tour to promote the album with concerts at Cactus League ballparks in Arizona during spring training. Here’s hoping they get a hit with Volume 2.
—Jeff Lindholm (Montpelier, VT)