MoBo Presents: The Perfect Cast EP (feat Modern Baseball)
The first few minutes of 'The Waterboy Returns', the first song of Modern Baseball’s new EP 'MoBo Presents: The Perfect Cast EP feat Modern Baseball' (got that?), make you think it could have been an added track on You’re Gonna Miss It All, the band’s excellent 2013 album. An overdriven guitar plays a catchy riff whilst Brendan Luken’s sings in the warm pop punk style that characterised songs like Your Graduation and Rock Bottom. It comes as a shock then that rather than being about college romances and anxious house parties, the lyrics are, “Hey you, that's no way out. You can't find help in a bottle or a cut. They'll choose the wrong way to remember you. They'll find the wrong words to say”.
The second track, 'Alpha Kappa Fall Of Troy The Movie Part Deux (2 Disc Directors Cut)', has wonderfully intricate American Football like clean-guitar breakdowns that are reminiscent of Modern Baseball’s début, Sports. The song also has the clever and funny story telling that makes the band so endearing (“Rained-out, wrapped right up in our metaphorical overpriced ponchos”), but rather than Facebook and Twitter references the lyrics descend into “Lost art, lost boy watching a grown man drink a 211 at 11 a.m. Our old joy! But everything is changing even faster than it was back then”, as the song breaks down into a distorted and chaotic crash to the finish.
Simply put, 'The Perfect Cast EP' feels like the old Modern Baseball sound getting its final swansong by being smashed headfirst into the new Modern Baseball sound, one characterised by multi-tracked vocals, heavier guitars and fewer quirky fills. The writing is reined in many regards, but as a whole it certainly seems fuller, more expansive and incorporates the entire bands talents. This can be seen in 'Infinity', which begins with a heavy, antagonistic verse full of half-finished sentences ("It's not fair. All is wrong, again. I'm not right; content with regret") before launching into an all sixteenths chorus and a time change to the cacophonous breakdown. This harsh conclusion and seemingly stream of consciousness, half-formed lyrics seem to compliment the album artwork perfectly.
Thematically the EP focuses on Luken’s mental health problems that saw the band cancel a series of dates in the UK and Australia earlier this year. As this was barely two months ago there is an obvious rawness and immediacy to the writing that makes you feel like you’re experiencing it yourself, not just listening to it. This rawness is perhaps best seen in The Waterboy Returns which, in addition the previously discussed brutal opening verse, has the poignant and introspective conclusion of “Let's go we can't lose another day in your old room. Caught you wasting away on accolades for songs you wrote, paralyzed by change, but scared to death that you might stay the same”. There are still songs about romance, for example The Thrash Particle, which has the story telling boy to girl style that the band is known for. This time however the catchy chorus is replaced by pounding drums and double tracked guitars and vocals that create a dark, resonating atmosphere. Gone is the pop punk sing along of something like Your Graduation (“bullshit you fucking miss me”), 'The Thrash Particle' instead has the sarcastic and biting “So, is this the hook you wanted? Is it stuck inside your head? Can you sing it with your friends, or alone?”
Despite the darkness the EP seems to move towards resolution as it draws to a close. '… And Beyond' has a wonderfully floating easiness as the two clean and airy guitars weave in it out of each other and Lukens return to a softer vocal delivery. The lyrics still aren’t cheerful, but the sense of desperation is gone and there is a wonderful ambiguity to the chorus of “You and I have come such a long way, for us to start again”. Final song 'Revenge Of The Nameless Ranger' gives a sense of, if not closure, acceptance and realising the need to move on, beginning and ending with the line, “I’m just not the same”. Sonically this track returns to a more classic Modern Baseball pop punk sound, and after the tumultuous journey 'The Perfect Cast EP' takes you on it feels almost like a relief to be back on safer ground.
Modern Baseball are currently recording their third album, 'Holy Ghost', and 'The Perfect Cast EP' feels like the perfect way to transition the band into this new chapter. It retains the Modern Baseball character of their first two releases and introduces the more expansive and mature sound that 'Holy Ghost' promises to have. It’s not an easy listen, both lyrically given the mental health subject matter and sonically with the collision of styles, but it is certainly one of the most interesting pop punk records of the year. It forces you to confront issues (it even lyrically tells you to), brings you almost uncomfortably close to the experiences with it's raw and intimate writing, and makes you think about how quickly things can change, both in terms of real world situations and your own mental stability.
It also makes you think; if this is just the EP, how fucking good is the album going to be?