Modern Baseball knock it out of the park
“Holy Ghost” breaks new ground for Modern Baseball’s emotional brand of pop-punk. | modernbaseballpa.bandcamp.com
Brendan Lukens stands at the edge of his roof, ready to jump. His bandmate Jake Ewald sends him a text in passing — completely unaware. Lukens then went back inside and opened up to his close friends and family and seek help for his depression and lifestyle of self-harm. Meanwhile Ewald continues to mourn the loss of his grandfather.
In the past, Modern Baseball wrote from a place of spite, frustration, angst and lament about fairly common life issues. “Holy Ghost” wrestles with deep pain and loss. Lyrically it retains the balance between apathy and complete sincerity, but begins to address difficult topics. Clocking in at a little over 25 minutes, there is no wasted space. The title track sets the tone for a melancholy exploration of grief, but kicks back in with bangers like “Wedding Singer” and “Breathing in Stereo.”
“Hiding” is an unexpected but welcome shift. Vocally it takes a more intimate feel. The plucking guitar feels so close, but swarming guitar fades in mid-song and drastically cuts out. The desperate plea, “Are you hiding or have I abandoned you?” is one of many one-liners that stick with the listener.
While the first half of the record deals more with personal issues for Ewald, the second half takes a darker shift as Lukens wrestles with inner turmoil and conflict. The shift seems to come midway through hiding, and comes to a grand finale in the final track. It is intentionally the longest track, and dances between Lukens inner dialogue and the painful realization that he desperately needs help. Guitars moan throughout the verses as he laments, “I’m a waste of time and space.” At the chorus a wall breaks between listener and artist, and the pain and desperation feels so real. At first glance the instrumentation seems pretty straightforward, but the slow build up and intermittent feedback and backing riffs perfectly manifest the turmoil of the writer.
The beautiful thing about “Holy Ghost” is how it calls out pain and self-loathing for what it is. Lukens used his depression as a tool for songwriting, but has finally found his value. This record works so well as a catharsis and farewell to a past of angst and pent-up frustration. Nothing is out of bounds. Pain is meant to be experienced and felt, but not held onto. “Just Another Face” makes this statement loudly. This may be the beginning of a transitory period for many “emo” bands beginning to realize the detrimental nature of the genre.
A Musical and Lyrical Shift
One of Modern Baseball’s biggest strengths is their honesty. Their emotional state is undeniably humble and powerful. Previous releases articulated frustration about girls, more songs about girls and a few songs about girls. “Holy Ghost” marks a shift musically and lyrically, as they begin to reach a point of emotional and musical stability. They grew up, and that is not a bad thing.