Monday, January 19, 2009

Pitching Music (or Song Pitchers)

I'm not much of a baseball fan, but damn if it's not a sport ripe for great analogy. It's managed to hold the top spot for Most Used Sexual Metaphor among pre-teens and teens for decades. Even if it lost out to football as America's Greatest Pasttime, it remains strong for English geeks looking for the easy comparative. It also will help ensure the immortality of Jim Steinman and Meatloaf for all eternity.

Anyway, a few days ago, I was listening to a song by The Go! Team when I stumbled on the story about Smoltz going to the Red Sox, and I thought to myself, Y'know, music artists are a lot like pitchers.

Here's what I mean. Artists tend to fall into one of the three pitching categories in most any music fan's line-up: Starters, relievers, and closers. Much like actual pitchers, being in one category isn't particularly better or worse. We all need a pitching staff that has plenty of all of these. And it's possible one team's starter might end up as a reliever or closer for someone else. It's your damn team; pitch who you want and where, know what I'm sayin'?

But here are the categories:

STARTERS are the artists you long to hear their entire albums. Radiohead immediately comes to mind as a Hall of Fame starting pitcher. Anyone who likes Radiohead likes their albums, not their songs. Plenty of others are up there for me in the starting rotation, people I can rely on to give me a complete game, or at least get me into the eighth or ninth inning with a lead. Patty Griffin is my Greg Maddux. If I play a song by her, I want to keep letting her pitch. It takes a lot for me to want to pull her from the game. She's not a power pitcher; she's just got exquisite aim. She can paint a corner like nobody's business, and her off-speed stuff has opponents whiffing air and walking back to the dugout. Rush and U2 are definitely starting pitchers on my team. They're, like, old veteran Eddie Harris from Major League, whose arms aren't what they used to be, but they can still throw a mean Vaseline ball and squeeze out six strong innings. The Hold Steady is totally like Roger Clemens (pre-steroid scandal).

Five of my all-time top musical starting pitchers: Rush, Patty Griffin, Indigo Girls, The Hold Steady, Stereophonics

Opening Pitch: Just Looking - Stereophonics (mp3)

MIDDLE RELIEVERS are the artists whose albums are modestly appealing, but you don't need to hear them very often. And usually, while their albums are good, you're OK to stop The Weepies are stellar middle relievers. I thorougly enjoy listening to their albums all the way through, but I really gotta be in a particular mood. Fountains of Wayne is another act that ranks high on this one. Most of my favorite contemporary music acts are middle relievers for me. Blame it on the iPod, maybe, but they're a dime a dozen, really. It's just a matter of which ones you want on your team.

Five of my best musical middle relievers: The Weepies, Better Than Ezra, Foo Fighters, Matt Nathanson, The Replacements

6th inning, bases loaded, tie ballgame: Still - Matt Nathanson (mp3)

Then there's THE CLOSERS. They're the bands you love because they make kick-ass songs. They're good for one, maybe two innings of overpowering heat or nasty junk, and that's all you need from them. These aren't "one hit wonders." True closers require a couple of strong pitches and consistency to survive in the bigs. They always show up on your mix CDs even though you hardly ever listen to whole albums of their stuff. You might not even buy whole albums of their stuff anymore. Like I said, The Go! Team is one of my favorite closers.. Those dudes show up on my mix CDs all the time, but I don't think I've ever listened to an entire album non-stop.

Five of my best musical closers: The Go! Team, Cheap Trick, Dishwalla, Goldfrapp, Otis Redding, Queen

Bottom of the 9th, up a run, man on second: Fly Me Away - Goldfrapp (mp3)

Bruce would be the John Smoltz or maybe even the Sultan of Swat. That dude can be a starter or a reliever. Bruce is a Hall of Famer who can pitch whenever he wants, and he'll change the game, guaranteed. Not many musical pitchers out there who can do that.

Who would you start in Game 7 of your musical world series? Who's your money closer? Whose musical arm gets you through the tough middle innings of a regular season game? Have fun thinking of your own team.

3 comments:

Daytimerush said...

Cool way to look at it.
Yay for pitchers!
Love your music choices this time.

Billy Bob said...

I guess to push the metaphor, I'd suggest that there used to be more pitchers who could go for 9 innings--Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, The Who, etc. Nowadays, you're lucky to get 5 innings out of a starter. Today's starter is not of the same caliber. I guess a guy like Steve Earle is good for 7 or more innings.

Ryan Adams was a starter, but he's becoming more of a middle reliever.

Kanye West is my John Rocker.

If there were a rain-delayed marathon game that took about 17 innings to be decided, I think I'd want Jerry Garcia on the mound.

Bono, at this point, is throwing batting practice.

Someone needs to call Bill Mallonee up from the minors.

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