“Grand Salami Time!” by Baseball Project (Omnivore Recordings)
Baseball’s anthem “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was crafted by two Tin Pan Alley songwriters who had never attended a game. By contrast, the tunes on “Grand Salami Time!” come from a band with extensive knowledge of the sport.
The album is the fourth by the Baseball Project, and the group – Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon, and former R.E.M. members Peter Buck and Mike Mills – mines nostalgia and esoterica to find fresh subject matter for 16 songs.
We’re talking inside baseball: A tribute to pitcher Jim Bouton makes a veiled reference to his career record of 64-64. The song “New Oh in Town” salutes Japanese heroes past and present. “Screwball” cleverly merges two subjects as it recalls players who pitched more than a century ago.
Most topics are paired with garage rock that gives Buck a chance to serve up some delightful guitar squall. Also contributing is co-producer Mitch Easter, who worked on R.E.M.’s early albums.
The band finds room for such contemporary clatter as launch angle, exit velocity and WHIP, but the best songs involve a different kind of analytics. The bluesy “Erasable Man” laments the color line, while the acoustic folk of “That’s Living” contemplates life’s short season.
As on previous albums, a few lyrics could use a sports editor, or any editor. “Eight-hundred-sixty-eight longballs would fly” just isn’t singable. But no band bats 1.000.
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