Batting Cleanup, It's Playlist 33 aka Yellow Tango

Yo La Tengo is not just a band. It's a great baseball story, one I didn't know until recently. From Wikipedia ...

During the 1962 season, New York Mets center fielder Richie Ashburn and Venezuelan shortstop Elio Chacón found themselves colliding in the outfield. When Ashburn went for a catch, he would scream, "I got it! I got it!" only to run into the 160-pound Chacón, who spoke only Spanish.

Ashburn learned to yell, "¡Yo la tengo! ¡Yo la tengo!" which is "I have it" in Spanish. In a later game, Ashburn happily saw Chacón backing off. He relaxed, positioned himself to catch the ball, and was instead run over by 200-pound left fielder Frank Thomas, who understood no Spanish and had missed a team meeting that proposed using the words "¡Yo la tengo! as a way to avoid outfield collisions.

After getting up, Thomas asked Ashburn, "What the heck is a Yellow Tango?"

With the All-Star game held this past week, it was a great week to pick up a new album by The Baseball Project, the lead-off hitter for this week's Playlist.

Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails. The Baseball Project.

This is a supergroup of sorts with includes Minus 5/Young Fresh Fellows leader Scott McCaughey, REM guitarist Peter Buck, Dream Syndicate's Steve Wynn and Golden Smog drummer Linda Pitmon.

First, there's nothing adventurous in the music here. Mid-tempo jangle-rock, for sure. McCaughey and Wynn's love for the game is obvious from the start in Pasttime, which name checks
Oscar Gamble's afro, Pete Rose crashing into Ray Fosse, Minnie Minoso and one of the greatest performances ever by a Phillie -- Rick Wise's no-hit/two home run masterpiece.

The standout track is Gratitude (for Curt Flood). The former Cardinal, whose Supreme Court battle against baseball opened the flood gates to free agency, laments at how he "paved the way" for the rich stars of today.

This is not a saccharine look at the game (the exception being the wonderful Jackie's Lament and Sometimes I Dream of Willie Mays). Like most fans, McCaughey and Wynn have a slightly sarcastic view of the game, which is most evident in the song Ted Williams. The album fittingly ends with The Closer, an ode to those one-inning specialists.

If you love baseball and rock music, you really should check it out. See my other review of this on the Princeton Record Exchange Blog.

Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Comple
x Things Can Be Made Simple. Jeffrey Kluger

Time Magazine
writer and Apollo 13 co-author Jeffrey Kluger tries to explain the emerging science of simplexity. What is it? Basically the concept that some things you think are complex are actually quite simple and vice versa. That's it. I don't buy the concept, still Kluger offered some intersting insights into our complex world -- how truck driving is a more complex job than most; why football is a more complex sport than baseball; and why cell phones are so complicated.

All Hour Cymbals. Yeasayer.

Yeasayer is a great example of why you can't judge an album by 30-second snippets. The over-hyped All Hour Cymbals is an unclassifiable album, a mix of psychadelia, world music and indie rock wrapped up in one heck of an interesting ride. Definitely a band to continue watching.

Fate's Got a Driver. Chamberlain.
Chamberlain rose from the ashes of Midwestern hardcore band Split Lip. This album, their first as Chamberlain, was released in 1995 and had the band moving in a more rootsy direction, but most of the songs still run off of massive hardcore guitar riffs. Standout song is Street Singer and the Lemonheads-sounding Yellow Gold. Bonus tracks include a cover of Tracy Chapman's Revolution.