ballboy – A Guide for the Daylight Hours

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

Gordon McIntyre’s smartass observations and blunt putdowns would not be as effective, or affecting, if it weren’t for his earnest ruefulness and naked desire to be a better person. Paired with his thick accent and combined with the band’s excellent musicianship, the schoolteacher-by-day McIntyre’s worldview is on full display on the best of ballboy’s work. Wearing your heart on your sleeve is an act of tremendous bravery, and if you disagree, it’s only because you have never tried it. McIntyre isn’t a jester or an idealogue; he is you, except able to give voice to the things you keep to yourself.

What I Think of This Album

This is my favorite ballboy album. The songs are much stronger than on the debut, and there is a welcome dearth of slow numbers. What there is no shortage of is the most idiosyncratic song titles outside of David Gedge’s journal:  “Where Do the Nights of Sleep Go To When They Do Not Come to Me,” “You Can’t Spend Your Whole Life Hanging Around With Assholes,” “I Wonder If You’re Drunk Enough to Sleep With Me Tonight,” “Nobody Really Knows Anything.”

The tone is set early with the seesawing, sprightly “Avant Garde Music,” mixing unusual affirmations (“The girl who works in the record shop / She says that I am not avant-garde enough / Well, so what / She only works in a record shop / And I don’t give a fuck what she says or she thinks about me”) with self-doubt (“sometimes I think that I don’t know anything at all”).

“Nights of Sleep” comes in on a disco beat, as McIntyre reminds of you of your failures as a human being, moves on to monologuing Stephen Crane’s poem “In the Desert,” and then explains how heartbreak works. “Assholes” is a country shuffle with strings, chastising the song’s subject while also proclaiming love for them, before making a final clean break; note the percussion track laid over the drum track.

“Drunk Enough” is not rapey, as you might reasonably worry (it’s not “drunk” as in “not able to consent,” its “drunk” as in “lowered standards” – this is a song about self-loathing, not misogyny); it’s actually romantic in a direct and open way (“kiss me like you mean it”), with Kate Griffiths’s keyboards setting the scene.

The band slows down and drops the jokes (mostly) on the delicate and blue “I Lost You But I Found Country Music.” The frustrated admirer of “Something’s Going to Happen Soon” makes the unusual play-by-play call of “and the cellos kick in” and in fact, they do, and in further fact, it is pretty fucking awesome.

The end of the album falters a bit. They remake “Sex is Boring” with an overstuffed arrangement, and “Meet Me at the Shooting Range” is a drawn out, self-involved, neurotic murder threat (though the violin solo is very pretty).

One of the two bonus songs, the excellent “All the Records On the Radio Are Shite” is a woozy (with New Orleans-style horns (via keyboard)) admission of regret. The other bonus track is poet Robert Burns’s “A Man’s a Man for A’That.”

Also, the CD comes with a booklet not of lyrics but of bizarre, twisted cartoons by David Shrigley.

The Best Thing About This Album

Again, trying to single out one thing here is next to impossible, but I only have myself to blame. “I Wonder If You’re Drunk Enough to Sleep With Me Tonight” just beats out “Where Do the Nights of Sleep Go To When They They Do Not Come to Me”

Release Date

2003 in the US; 2002 in the UK

The Cover Art

Another bad cover. The white frame is ugly, and the Muppet-like doll amidst the foliage is pointless and not funny (also designed by Shrigley). And again with the all lowercase.

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