Cricket and baseball have many similarities but just as many differences. Innings are the same, pitching in baseball is bowling in cricket. Bowling in the US is an entirely different thing, that’s a ball and pin game. In cricket the field is shaped in an oval, in baseball it’s a diamond. Games go on for days in cricket, but only hours in baseball. Both sports have their fans and detractors, and they are sports that invite geek-dome, people reciting arcane statistics about players that are long gone and reminiscing about all but forgotten games. Come to think of it, a baseball or cricket geek is not a whole lot different from a music geek. It turns out that there are a few musicians that fall into both the music geek and sport geek category. I know that Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian is big baseball fan (and he probably knows a thing or two about cricket), but Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn are seemingly even bigger fans. Last summer they released of an album under the moniker the Baseball Project. McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, etc) and Wynn (Dream Syndicate) sat down and wrote an album of odes to America’s pastime and then recruited Peter Buck and Linda Pitmon to make the them. What resulted was a funny and poignant record that spanned the history of baseball. The songs cover everything about baseball: pitching a perfect game, drinking, mysterious deaths, giving the bird to the fans, steroids and Ted Fucking Williams. If you weren’t a fan of baseball or don’t know much about the game, the songs are catchy enough in a no depression, powerpop vein to grab your attention and send you researching what exactly the songs are about.
Well if a bunch of Americans can write songs about baseball, why can’t a couple of Irish guys write songs about Cricket. Now I imagine that someone in the UK listening to the Baseball Project is probably about the same as me listening to Duckworth Lewis Method, meaning I have no idea what these songs are about because cricket to me is like curling to someone from Tahiti. It doesn’t matter, Neil Hannon (the Divine Comedy) and Thomas Walsh (Pugwash) have come up with a batch of odes to the sport of cricket so catchy, they’ve got me scavenging the pages of Wikipedia to learn more about the likes of Javed Miandad, Shane Warne, Mike Gatting, the Ball of the Century and what exactly the Duckworth Lewis Method is. Like McCaughey and Wynn, Hannon and Walsh split songwriting credits as well as singing duties. Hanon’s songs are done in his typical Noel Coward, Scott Walker style while Walsh’s tend to be a bit more rocking like The Soundtrack of Our Lives vs. Electric Light Orchestra.
Both of these records clock in under and hour and have batting averages hovering around .650. In either sport that kind of average is insanely high, no, impossible, but we’re talking rock n’ roll here. Up here in the northern hemisphere, the boys of summer are out their diamonds and grounds, and musicians are writing songs about it. Next summer my money is on a Pesäpallo record by some Finish supergroup.