Reaching back to the roots of emo, with a pop touch...
'Holy Ghost'

I grew up on pop-punk. It shaped my music taste and arguably attributed to an annoying over-sensitivity that remains today. I also grew out of it though, somewhere around the time Billie-Joe Armstrong began the long ascent up his own arsehole and fart jokes and references to incest stopped being funny. Or so I thought.

Around 2010 however, a new generation of pop-punk emerged. Darker and more mature than previous generations, it took its influence and occasional indifference from '90s emo; more So What than So-Cal, and it was like rediscovering the genre all over again. Since then, pop-punk has gone from strength to strength and one band who've done likewise is Philadelphia's Modern Baseball, a band who, much like the genre they've come to dominate, have matured with their audience.

Their first album to be recorded with outside help, 'Holy Ghost' finds Modern Baseball building on the darker aspects of last year's 'The Perfect Cast' EP whilst managing to retain an irresistibly youthful energy. The expected tales of heartbreak are still present but with them are the trials and tribulations of the two years the band spent between LPs - the highs and lows of touring, and the personal struggles of the members themselves. It isn't just the narratives that feel more mature however, the entire composition does. Something which stems from its two individual halves.

Often resigned to writing separate songs in different places, co-songwriters Jacob Ewald and Brendan Lukens split the record almost down the middle, with Ewald taking the first six tracks, and Lukens the closing five. As a result, each half harbours its own individuality, without ever feeling at odds with its counterpart.

Tracks such as the recently released 'Wedding Singer' or 'Everyday' from the record's first half harbour a brooding and at times understated quality. The latter on the other hand feels more outspoken, and even at times bombastic in comparison. 'Apple Cider I Don't Mind' verges on the anthemic indie of Augustines or even The Killers, while album closer 'Just Another Face' is a slow-burner. Steadily mounting towards an explosive and cathartic conclusion, its the epitome of the of the maturing process Modern Baseball have been through and offers a small glimpse of what the future holds for the band.

Not a band to rest on their laurels, Modern Baseball have grown and matured alongside their fans, and the genre itself. It's this adaptability that's provided them with longevity and an almost universal appeal. At a time where previous kings of the genre can't even decide who's in their band any more, it's up to the new generation to stop pop-punk from turning into parody. Thank god Modern Baseball seem up to the task.

9/10

Words: Dave Beech

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