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song obsession : The Baseball Project : “Buckner’s Bolero”

19 Feb 2011 · No Comments

Not to slight the other tunes on The Baseball Project’s Volume 2: High and Inside, many more of which (especially Scott McCaughey’s eerie “Here Lies Carl Mays” and Steve Wynn’s rollicking “The Straw that Stirs the Drink”) are also quite swell. But “Buckner’s Bolero” is something else again, a powerful early entrant for the song-of-the-year stakes.

It’s not as much about the error Bill Buckner made in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, as it is about the long sequence of events that set that error up to lose the game. It quietly makes the point that every out recorded, every run across the plate, every play, even every pitch is something that goes well for someone on one team, and badly for for someone on the other. The line that almost makes me tear up a little is “Bob Stanley picked a pretty bad time to uncork a wild pitch,” which is almost the whole thing in a microcosm: if Stanley’d really picked a time, he would’ve picked some other time.

McCaughey’s lyric doesn’t read particularly well — it’s a bit like an an essay with rather mangled grammar — and it’s frankly kind of amazing that it works as well sung as it does. I credit that partly to McCaughey’s sensitive, restrained delivery, which makes his meaning plain when his words don’t quite, and partly to some very canny arranging. “Buckner’s Bolero” is the longest track on the record and one of the most expansively rendered. The timing of the backing vocals is notably sloppy, which makes the song seem a bit more loose than it really is, in a not-at-all bad way. Paul Brainerd’s pedal steel lends an appropriately melancholy country tinge to the track, but what really pushes this into the realm of transcendence is how Ira Kaplan’s guitar looms over it, simultaneously screeching and shimmering, both a curse and a benediction.

Tags: 2011 · b · indie pop · indie rock · roots rock · song obsession · song of the week · yep roc

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