If you’re a punk rock-loving baseball nerd, we have good news for you and it comes in the form of a new record called 1994 World Series Champions, by Canadian band Isotopes Punk Rock Baseball Club.
The Vancouver B.C. natives have invented a new genre all their own called baseball punk rock, and yes, the majority of their songs are about America’s favorite pastime. In fact, there’s almost no aspect of Isotopes that isn’t a semi-obscure reference to something baseball-related, right down to their name and the name of their new album. The former is adopted from the Simpsons‘ baseball team, the Springfield Isotopes, while the latter references the missed 1994 World Series, which was cancelled after Major League umpires went on strike.
Frontman Evan October actually played baseball in Vancouver at a pretty high level, but ultimately opted out in favor of starting a band that married his loves of punk and baseball. With a sound reminiscent of the Descendents and the Ramones, Isotopes have covered topics ranging from Alex Rodriguez’s PED suspension to former New York Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez in the past, and their new record follows in the same vein.
The band riffs on the film The Sandlot, with the track “Sandlot Party.” It’s very much in the style of the Ramones, and the lyrics depict the characters from the kids baseball movie having a very, um, adult party at the sandlot. It’s pretty much impossible to listen without laughing out loud to lyrics like, “Here’s Smalls and the Great Bambino/ With some mash and a box of vino/ And Yeah Yeah’s got the yayoooohhh/ Benny ‘the Jet’ is dealing cigarettes/ The whole field’s getting wet.”
The highlight of this record is, without question, “The Legend of George Brett.” This may require some Googling on the part of baseball fans and non-baseball fans alike, but to save some time here’s the skinny: George Brett is a Hall of Fame third baseman who played for the Royals from 1973-1993, and was involved in a famous pine tar incident in a 1983 game against the New York Yankees. After his playing career he became a special instructor for the Royals, and in 2006 spring training, unbeknownst to him, he was recorded by a TV camera as he nonchalantly launched into a long, uncomfortable story about “shitting his pants” in front of the Bellagio, after eating crab legs at a Las Vegas steakhouse called Cocomo’s, while an unlucky player stood by pretending not to be horrified.
Needless to say, this was ripe material for an Isotopes song and they certainly did it proud. Throughout the two-minute track they quote Brett and the details of the story liberally with lyrics like, “Crab legs and cheap martinis/ Bar maids in shell bikinis/ Don’t have to ask me where I’m gonna be tonight.” They go on: “I wanna lose control/ I wanna lose my clothes/ I wanna go, I wanna go-go-go to Cocomo’s.” They even manage to insert a pine tar reference.
This record is full of catchy, hilarious songs with more jokes embedded than one review can hash out (including a track about Jose Canseco blowing his finger off in a gun accident and another devoted to a movie in a Seinfeld episode). But the band is more than a spoof. They carry on the tradition of abrasive two-minute songs led by power-chords, nasally vocals and fast-paced drums in the spirit of some of the godfathers of punk rock, and they do it well. So even if you don’t catch all of the witty references or don’t even like baseball, if you like good, uncomplicated punk rock you will love Isotopes Punk Rock Baseball Club and 1994 World Series Champions, out April 14.
Follow reporter Julie Parker at Twitter.com/jpwhatsername.