ballboy – The Sash My Father Wore and Other Stories

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

It’s frustrating, sometimes, to love a band and feel like they are unfairly underappreciated (if not, statistically speaking, unappreciated). I sometimes fantasize that if I just compiled a “Best of” for every artist I feel has been overlooked, and somehow shared it globally, that then they would get the accolades they deserve. This is foolishness, of course. Most people don’t really give a shit about music, and ballboy’s problem wouldn’t be solved by exposure. Some things, no matter how worthy, just get ignored – this is as true of art as it is of hearts.

What I Think of This Album

This is ballboy in name only – it is basically a Gordon McIntyre solo album – which is an unusual route to take on the second proper album. The credits are skeletal, identifying McIntyre as the songwriter and crediting the two string players only. Most songs are in fact just acoustic guitar with cello and viola/violin (I don’t know).

Consistent with the solo album theme, three of the eleven songs are covers:  Galaxie 500 (“Tell Me”); Springsteen (“Born in the U.S.A.” – yes); and some third artist I have not been able to identify, for the song “Dutch Trance,” credited to songwriter Mutch.

The album is gentle and slow; for the most part, it is arresting and breathtaking. “You Should Fall in Love With Me” is beautiful (benefitting from electric guitar and drums, played by McIntyre, I am forced to assume) – a subdued but forceful cry of relevance (“And the cemetery will get me in the end / But the cemetery is not ready for me yet”). Likewise affecting is opener “Welcome to Växjö,” a song of lost love. The string arrangements are truly wondrous on these and the remaining songs. They bring new life to the Galaxie 500 track and surprisingly, to the perennially misunderstood Springsteen classic; I don’t know why the obviously Scottish McIntyre chose this song, but it somehow works.

“I Gave Up My Eyes to a Man Who Was Blind” has heartbreaking lyrics but the melody is somewhat wanting. “Stronger Hearts Than Mine Lie Empty” treads neighboring ground with far more success. The title track – borrowing its title from a 19th century Irish folk ballad – is a bit too blunt and obvious; protest songs are perhaps not McIntyre’s strong suit.

Whatever the provenance of “Dutch Trance,” it is excellent (and of a piece with ballboy’s other references to house music and trip hop). The sunny “Kiss Me, Hold Me and Eat Me” brings with it a flash of the old ballboy humor and it is a welcome palate cleanser – like all songs about cannibals – after the unrelenting sadness of the preceding tracks.

McIntyre perhaps again gets a bit too on the nose with “I Need Two Hearts,” but at least the strings are perfection, as is the delicate guitar (and the lyrics in the chorus are the essence of romance). “Past Lover” is also straightforward but works better, with another poetic chorus and outstanding string accompaniment.

ballboy would not attempt something like this again, on this scale, until I Worked On the Ships.

The Best Thing About This Album

The strings. Absolutely devastating.

Release Date

February, 2003

The Cover Art

Ho hum. They weren’t even trying here. I should note that everything about the packaging is odd. The size is not standard, and the whole thing is more akin to a sleeve with a front flap.

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