If you’ve ever listened to Modern Baseball, your immediate reaction was probably something like, “hmm… this is interesting…” or “I wonder if my crappy high school band could have made it…” followed by some uncomfortable laughter. Or maybe that was just mine. Upon first listen, the group of Philadelphia twenty-something-year-olds sounded like one of your typical semi-talented garage bands, and maybe they even act like it.
Let’s take a look at their song, “Your Graduation,” for example.
The song begins with a poorly distorted guitar and lead singer Brendan Lukens’ voice. It sounds simple, like the singer couldn’t be more unenthused about the song as he drags his oddly toned voice through some droning lyrics. The words seem disconnected from the song, as there are a lot of them, and they carry no true rhythm or structure for most of the track. The song continues to build up as pounding drums and bass join in. From here the song’s structure seems to be unpredictable. My cynical self could have been found scowling when it decided to end the build-up with a couple of simple strums and a whiny chorus. It only continues to get weirder when it builds up again and drops into a Sum-41-style verse where the drummer chimes in with some angry, resentful singing.
It would be all too easy to listen to the song once, never touch it again, and go merrily on your way on a search for something else; but oh what a shame that would be. “Your Graduation” is actually a masterpiece waiting to be discovered, just like the rest of MoBo’s catalog.
Take a second to dissect it while giving it a few listens and you will see why. Those “droning” lyrics that just don’t seem to fit the song, remember those? They are actually really poetic and brutally honest.
It’s been three whole years of me thinking about you every day
Sometimes for hours, sometimes in passing
Saw you from the bottom of the staircase
Stood out for hours as you complained
About how you haven’t seen your friends yet
That you’re too drunk to stand and
You not knowing if you can love him forever
Bull**** you f***ing miss me
There I said it I guess I’ll talk to you in a few months
Sitting drunk on the sidewalk
I guess I’ll get up
I guess I’ll go for a walk
Press my shoes against the pavement
I swear this has got to be the hundredth
Time I’ve thought of you tonight
They look as though they are straight out of high school diary. Lukens takes a unique approach by using the specific moments of a heartbreaking situation to tell a story. They are exactly what everyone may have thought after a breakup but never had the guts to say (Bull**** you f***ing miss me. There I said it, I guess I’ll talk to you in a few months.). Lukens takes you into his mind and lets you sit with his thoughts, potentially leaving you feeling as though you know him personally. So yes, they may lie awkwardly over the music, but think about “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers and tell me that situational, disjointed lyrics have never worked successfully in a song before.
The unenthused style of singing also may sound rough around the edges at times, but only further conveys Lukens’ sadness in the end, subconsciously giving “Your Graduation” even more depth. This same technique is prominent in other MoBo songs such as, “Fine, Great,” “Re-Done,” and the new track, “The Waterboy Returns.”
I also previously criticized the bizarre song structure, but upon further reflection, do we really need another typical pop-punk/emo band? The track carries at least three parts that could have been broken into separate songs, and it links them with ease. An acoustic rant, a mid-2000s punk song, and a good old rock and roll jam session in the garage are all seamlessly put to together into one song that dares you to be bored. Although things can at times sound as if they happened by accident, such as the simple guitar solo near the end of the song or the sporadic drum fills throughout, it has an odd charm about it. This charm translates to the band’s live show and their image.
The guys in Modern Baseball aren’t trying to be refined. Catch them at any of their shows and you can bet that they will look just like a few typical college students, dressed in ratty tees, athletic pants or cargo shorts, and greasy, unkempt haircuts. Modern Baseball is also, as I mentioned in my previous review, “endearingly awkward” on stage, as the band’s lack of stage presence is oddly attractive. They simply act as though they are playing the music for themselves, just as one would at home in their garage. They make each other laugh even though they are singing into a mic, have water fights between songs, and make stroppy advances at each other while playing.
So, although on the surface, Modern Baseball may seem like a bunch of Average Joes who play music in their free time, they are secretly one of the more talented and charismatic groups in today’s alternative music scene. Never judge a song or band by your first listen because there could be so much more beneath the surface.