Review: “Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails,” The Baseball Project

Just like Roger Kahn’s book The Boys Of Summer kicked the art of baseball writing into a whole new league, the new album Volume 1: Frozen Ropes And Dying Quails redefines the baseball song.  Credited to the group The Baseball Project, the album is actually the work of an alt-rock all-star team led by Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, R.E.M.) and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate) with help from guitarist Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and drummer Linda Pitmon.

And like the Kahn masterpiece, the songs throw a spotlight on baseball heroes both celebrated and forgotten: “Ted Fucking Williams” is the Splendid Splinter’s own egocentric description of himself; “Broken Man” examines Mark McGwire’s transition into tainted hero; while “Satchel Paige Said,” “Jackie’s Lament” and “Gratitude (For Curt Flood)” pay tribute to some of the game’s pioneers.  “Harvey Haddix” tells the story of the Pirates pitcher who tossed a 12-inning perfect game only to lose in the 13th; and “Fernando,”  told in Spanish, contrasts the exploits of L.A. hero Valenzuela with the repression of his culture.

Don’t worry, this is superb rock and roll: brawny and jangly, “Past Time” is about as close as it gets to John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” warhorse.  You won’t hear any of these played during the seventh inning stretch (although “Ted Fucking Williams” would be awesome at Fenway).  The Baseball Project takes on tough subjects and goes yard just about every time.  This is a very fun album to listen to, over and over; sort of like reading a good baseball book.  It’s very rare to come across great rock that also tells a good story and great baseball rock is even more rare – like a 12-inning perfect game.  Highly recommended, even if you are not a baseball fan.

MP3: “Ted Fucking Williams”

MP3: “Fernando”

The Baseball Project page at Yep Roc Records

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