Sports is the debut full-length effort from Modern Baseball following a split release with Marietta. With a blend of indie, emo and pop, Modern Baseball bring song writing back to basics, but they prove that sometimes (although definitely not all of the time) the simpler the better. The melodies throughout are relatively straightforward and don’t ever achieve much in the way of complexity, but they do not try to. What they bring to the table is an album bursting with catchy rhythms and quite ordinary but far-reaching lyrics. As a band in their youth, Modern Baseball have definitely grasped the basics of a good song composition and stuck to it. They haven’t been overambitious, but they have been clinical thorough, moulding an album that will stay long in your memory.
“Re-Do” kicks of the album with a strong riff which builds up into regimented bursts of energy. The toing and froing between choruses and verses bring smooth changes of tempo with it and this is a common feature throughout the album, allowing for some miniature dramatic crescendos throughout in each song. The foot-tapping pace, which quickly develops into a belting chorus follows the singer’s “unrequited love for life”, before “Tears Over Beers”, one of the catchiest songs of the year never mind the album, shows the vocalist’s resentment of the typical teen story of the pretty girl who doesn’t know her own worth pining over some ‘jock’ while the ‘nerd’ looks on. Modern Baseball’s approach is a refreshing take on pop punk which emphasises the ‘pop’, but is perhaps lacking in the confused angst displayed by its noisier sister which places a little more emphasis on the ‘punk’ half of the equation.
Modern Baseball craft songs which are charmingly awkward as the narrative works through the emotional growth associated with the age group populated by those guys who are no longer boys but not yet men. Several songs on the record include explicit references to the digitalisation of modern culture, especially noticeable in “@chl03k” which describes conversations and relationships conveyed through Twitter and Facebook. This can make the songs sound a little too descriptive of a bland ordinary day in the life of a teenager, but it is part of what makes the listener become enveloped in each track. However the literality of the songs makes no room for artistic metaphor and they are left lacking much in the way of complexity, but this may enter in as the band matures.
One of the best things about Sports is its ‘relatability’. The lyrically simplistic songs detail events that will occur in the average life of every teenager. These themes jump from feeling socially inept when compared to the popular kids, the emotional struggles associated with leaving home, and as you would expect, teen love in all of its awkward and cringey glory. This is clearly nothing new and it could be argued that such themes form the basis of most young bands’ writing, but it’s their ability to get people singing along and empathising while keeping the issues and music itself simple that makes this debut a clear success. As a band in their youth Modern Baseball don’t only show a few green shoots and potential for growth, every bar of music resonates the promise locked inside Sports which could explode out into a very special second album. While I have picked out its simplicity as one of the keys to the success of this release, it would be nice to hear a bit more complexity and experimentation next time around, but what we are left with for now is a solid debut from a band you have to look out for in the future.
Four out of five high fives!