August 06, 2003

Ballboy "A Guide For The Daylight Hours"

Scottish quartet Ballboy’s first domestic full-length Club Anthems was actually a collection of previously released import EPs, and it positioned them as a half as literary yet twice as lovelorn version of Belle and Sebastian. Whereas that album was promising yet flawed, their first proper album A Guide for the Daylight Hours finds them confident and fully formed. They’ve become better editors by cutting down on the momentum-killing spoken-word bits and repetitious riffing that often dragged their songs to unreasonable lengths. The musicianship, especially the keyboard playing, has also improved. Other than that, though, little has changed in the world of Ballboy. They’re still a bunch of sarcastic Scots who use their wit as a shield for heartbreak and social ineptitude, and transform this duality into catchy songs with funny titles that won’t leave your head for weeks. They also have the decency to begin their album with a stone-cold classic, “Avant-Garde Music.”

In this song, singer/guitarist Gordon MacIntyre is so distressed over the San Franciscan girl who rejected him because he wasn’t “avant-garde enough” that not even a personal acknowledgment from the Queen of England can cheer him up. Yet, he still maintains that he doesn’t “give a f-k what she says or thinks” about him. We know he’s lying, but the band chugs behind him with a drive a conviction that almost makes it believable. “You Can’t Spend Your Whole Life Hanging Around with Arseholes” finds MacIntyre sick and tired of pining in vain for a girl who’s too busy chasing after scenesters whom she’ll never fit in with. In another song, he tells a girl “I Wonder If You’re Drunk Enough to Sleep With Me Tonight.” His under-confidence becomes even more pathetic once you realize that the lyrics indicate that he’s already slept with the woman at least once. “Nobody Really Knows Anything” unflinchingly chronicles a relationship’s decline: the guy drinks himself into impotence while the girl starts courting her ex-boyfriends. In “Sex Is Boring,” a full-band remake of an acoustic Club Anthems song, MacIntyre ends up more interested in a girl’s record collection than her body. Daylight Hours ends with the surprisingly sinister “Meet Me at the Shooting Range,” in which he sings the quotable lines “If I was going to kill you, I wouldn’t tell you/I’m not going to kill you, but I realize that that’s what I would say.” Nick Cave would be proud.

The two songs that sum up the album’s theme the best are actually the ones that deviate most from Ballboy’s sonic template of shy crooning, jangly guitars, cheesy preset synths, and a driving rhythm section. With no more than ninety seconds of Gordon’s voice and guitar, “I Lost You but I Found Country Music” sketches the perfect anthem for anyone who has used music to recover from rejection. “A Europewide Search for Love” is the only entirely spoken-word track on the album, and it’s buttressed by a gorgeous string arrangement. In this song, MacIntyre ruminates about how matters of the heart take up more of most people’s thoughts than economic or political matters ever could. “If I lose some money, then I lose some money,” he says. “I don’t really care; tonight, I’m thinking about much more important things.” “Country Music” and “Search for Love” are positioned right next to each other at the middle of the Daylight Hours, giving the album a sort of pyramidal structure in which the first four songs build up to a climax and the final four songs come down from it.

If the words “Britpop” and “High Fidelity” mean anything to you, you should already own the import version of this record already. If they mean something to you and you DON’T already own this album, you are seriously out of character. Reward yourself for going against stereotype and save a couple of bucks by purchasing the domestic version, which has two great bonus tracks! The packaging is also worth mentioning because it includes a number of hilarious drawings and pictures from a guy named David Shrigley. Check out the “Swearing Contest” drawing in the CD’s inlay and you’ll see what I mean.

---Sean Padilla

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