I really, really don’t like the term guilty pleasure. I think it’s a dirty phrase that’s used too often by people who don’t feel guilty at all about liking whatever they’re talking about. I used to describe the Snakes On A Plane theme song as a guilty pleasure (while we’re here: that song is a undoubtedly a high in Crush Management’s dominance over the world), but then I thought about it and decided that “guilty pleasures” do not exist.
There is a point here, hidden underneath the layers of awesome, guiltless pleasure currently filling your ears, since I’m assuming that you clicked on that link and by now William Beckett is getting into the first chorus of the Snakes On A Plane jam. For many people, Modern Baseball’s sophomore LP, You’re Gonna Miss It All, will seem like it belongs under the umbrella of things you like but deep down you’re not really supposed to like. This makes sense to me because I felt that way about the band’s debut, Sports, for a very long time. Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald are not “technically good” at singing. Modern Baseball does not write gloriously composed instrumentals that will one day serve as a reference point upon which even more glorious songs will be written. The lyrics Lukens and Ewald belt out – sometimes loudly, sometimes softly, and sometimes mumble-y – have an expiration date on them. Case in point: The opening track, “Fine, Great,” mentions Instagram. Someday, Instagram will not exist. Probably.
Modern Baseball is urgently concerned with what is going on right now. They’re also pretty concerned with what has happened to them in the past. And they aren’t afraid to let you know that. “Fine, Great” actually does a good job of warning you up front: “I hate worrying about the future / ‘Cause all my fucking problems are based around the past.” So if you’re going to listen to this record, it’s going to require a certain amount of realization that nothing here was ever meant to last forever. Modern Baseball has a specific reason for existing, and they’re good at executing what they seek to accomplish. They’re a band for the general angsty youth of America, and they’re here to give you something to relate to. They’re here to sing about your life because they’re better at singing about it than you are at describing it.
As for a requisite classification, You’re Gonna Miss It All falls under the category of Midwestern emo-tinged East Coast pop-punk, but it does so while incorporating a folky vibe courtesy of intermittent acoustic portions. The lyrics are never not seemingly recited from someone’s diary, but these journal-entry songs often come accompanied by the rocking goodness of Jimmy Eat World, presented in a basement-punk type manner, and the ~quirkiness~ of a Motion City Soundtrack / Say Anything hybrid. Those comparisons are easy enough to make and have most likely been made before, but the difficult thing to get across here is how Modern Baseball has managed to write an album that I find so instantly engrossing even while understanding the limitations it presents courtesy of its lyrical content.
The easy answer may be nostalgia. If you’re out of college, You’re Gonna Miss It All is a trippy flashback to years spent caring about things that you no longer find to be worthy of your full attention. “Rock Bottom” isn’t exactly poetry, but it presents this gem: “To hell with class, I’m skipping / Let’s order food and sleep in / I’ve got so much to do / But it’s okay ’cause whatever, forever.” I mean, we’ve all been there. If you’re in college right now, You’re Gonna Miss It All may very well be to you what The Upsides was to me in 2010; it’s an album full of songs that somehow, magically, seem like they were written specifically for you and your friends. If you’re that person and you’re reading this, I urge you to share these songs with your friends. You’ll remember them forever. And no matter how old you are, you certainly remember the album that was that album for you.
Throughout this record, Modern Baseball reminisces in full transparency about its past while struggling to look toward the future. The amped-up “Charlie Black” sees Lukens cry, in a moment of semi-crisis, “Tragedy’s got my heart a-beatin’ / Rethinking all my days.” Meanwhile, other songs are less introspective. The thumping “Going To Bed Now” is full of riddles: “What do you call someone who calls you out on DIY ethics you don’t embody as he drains his dad and mommy’s monthly data plan? An asshole with an iPhone.” The uncontested album highlight comes late in You’re Gonna Miss It All’s tracklisting with the near-flawless “Your Graduation,” a song that transcends Modern Baseball’s tendency of near-sightedness, eclipsing usual faults to present a number full of one-liners that deserves a spot amongst the celebrated early-2000s pop-punk anthems which are now subjects of rare late-night singalongs. Lukens provides the song’s backbone, singing about a crush he can’t quite get over: “I swear this has gotta be the hundredth time I thought of you tonight … I spend most nights awake, wide awake / I never thought that I would see the day where I’d just let you go, let you walk away.” Drummer Sean Huber comes through with his only vocal spot on the record, a jarring, somewhat growly but fully welcome interruption amidst Lukens’ slump. This is a song that’s here for the long haul.
Despite the negatives I’ve pointed out, Modern Baseball has completely and holistically struck gold with You’re Gonna Miss It All. This is an essential album in 2014. For young music listeners, it could be a gateway drug into this wonderful world where punk rock eventually ends up engulfing your soul and destroying your life. For many, it will be an addictive drug of an album that will have immense staying power in the short term. For the older crowd…if Modern Baseball doesn’t remind you why you fell in love with whatever you loved back in 200X, you may simply no longer have a soul. Eventually, we will require Modern Baseball to “grow up” lyrically (they’re already pretty damn solid in the musicianship department), but that day is not now. Maybe on LP3 we’ll want something that we can chew on longer. Maybe Modern Baseball will give that to us, and maybe they won’t, but this band of Drexel University students does not have to answer a greater calling right at this moment. Their legacy can be judged on another day. For now, I’m going to tell everyone I know about how this band is something that – erm – you don’t wanna miss. At all.