Every once in a while it’s nice to abandon ship and write about music, at least for me. I’m no Pulitzer candidate when it comes to penning a baseball daily or writing an album review, but I’d like to think I have a high level of competency doing either. So when featured Cubs podcaster Danny Rockett (aka Son Ranto) asked me to review his new long-player, I gladly accepted.
Before we get started, let me tell you a bit about the Bleacher Bum Band. I’ve seen them perform live previously, though in an abbreviated set. They’re talented musically if a little tough to categorize. If you’re hoping to discover a Cubs-themed Weird Al Yankovic type band, you’ll be sorely disappointed. As successful as he’s been, Yankovic’s songs usually get tiresome after a single listen. Jeez, I hope he’s not an avid reader.
If I had to describe the Bleacher Bum Band as musicians and lyricists, I’d probably make a pretty good argument with the following: Take the best parts of They Might Be Giants and Ween, mix in a heaping cup of Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead, a teaspoon or two of Green Day, and equal dashes of David Byrne and Jack Rabbit Slim. As for lead vocalist Rockett, he fits squarely in a range that starts with Mike McColgan of Dropkick Murphys and ends with Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
The album has nice history, too.
After years of writing and performing Cubs parodies and originals, Rockett teamed up with guitarist and producer Bleacher Jeff from the left field well to form a harder-rocking bar band born of Wrigley’s bleachers. This nine-song album started production in the fall of 2019 with an original release day scheduled to coincide with Chicago’s 2020 home opener. Unfortunately, the pandemic that sidetracked baseball also put a halt to the band’s record release party.
A full year away from fan-supported baseball at Wrigley Field allowed the Bleacher Bum Band to remaster their tracks. While on lockdown, band members recorded from home studios in Chicago, as well as Los Angeles and even Serbia. The quarantined recording sessions gave all participants the chance to put the finishing touches on what the band claims is “the greatest Chicago Cubs rock album ever released.”
- Florida Man – A hard-rocker about first baseman Anthony Rizzo and his philanthropic generosity.
- Coming Back to Wrigley – A tavern sing-along with a bombastic chorus which was written in 2016 as a welcome home song for the World Champion Cubs. Imagine Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” with speed guitar, maximum amplification, and a throw-it-down attitude.
- No Fighting in the Bleachers – We’re a few weeks past St. Patrick’s Day but this should make your “professional night” soundtrack next March. The message is clear: If you want to tie one on the bleachers don’t spoil it for everybody else by engaging in fisticuffs. Rockett witnessed the melee that spurred the idea for this song and if I had to take a guess, I’d say this is what happens when we let Phillies fans infiltrate the cheap seats. Anyway, fans of The Pogues will dig this one and it pairs nicely with “Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced” by Dropkick Murphys in any playlist accompaniment to green beer and corned beef sandwiches.
- Cup Snake Guy – Musically, this one is a little meandering and confusing, much like a cup snake, I suppose. It starts out with anthem rock sensibilities before quickly segueing into a calypso rhythm closely resembling some of David Byrne’s work during the end of his tenure with Talking Heads. It’s a nice stab at suburban fans — you’ve seen them heading back to Berwyn and North Riverside on the Red Line after games not knowing if the Cubs won or lost — and you could actually imagine Byrne singing and adding this song to the Heads’ “True Stories” album.
- Harry Lives On in the Taps – If you listen closely to the lyrics you may never drink an ice cold Budweiser again. Then again, it was an idea by the late, great Harry Caray that formed the basis of this song. Stay away from Bud, friends and foes, you’re only supporting the Cardinals by doing so and God knows what you might be ingesting.
- The Ballad of John Baker – If you dig on rockabilly, this one’s for you. A great recap of the night backup catcher and accidental celebrity John Baker earned a win, and scored the winning run to boot.
- Rob Manfred Hates Baseball – Poor Rob, he hates baseball and everybody hates him, except, of course, for his 30 best friends, the league’s owners. This song has some old-timey piano courtesy of Katie Day, and a lot of cool percussive accouterments, including a jaw harp. The combination makes this Vaudevillian number one of the album’s better tracks.
- One Out Closer to a Beer – It should be a country song based on the title, but this bluesy rocker is my favorite song on the album. It’s based on a phrase made popular by retired Cubs legend John Lackey. It’s also a fun way to pine for that post-game cold one at Murphy’s Bleachers while you’re waiting for the North Siders to close out a victory after the 7th inning alcohol-sales ban.
- Ash in the Ivy – A funky groove in the manner of Sly Stone or Parliament about spreading the ashes of a loved one among the ivy covering Wrigley Field’s outfield walls. I’m not sure Rockett has the right vocal range for this type of music, but he makes it work nonetheless. Reminds me a lot of “What Is Hip?” by Tower of Power, or if you really listen closely it could pass for some Widespread Panic. Bleacher Jeff sounds every bit as good as Gov’t Mule guitarist Warren Haynes on this one.
Bleacher Bum Band’s Starting Lineup
- Where to Buy: Bandcamp, which is a great way to support the band, by the way. The digital album is ten bucks and worth it.
- Where to Listen: Spotify | YouTube | Pandora
If you’d like to see the band perform the new album live, there are a very limited number of tickets remaining for “Bleacher Bum Band’s Opening Day Concert” at Gman Tavern, postgame on April 1. Seating restrictions still apply, and half the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Lakeview Food Pantry. If I can get the day off, I may take a ride down to catch the show and what’s sure to be a good time.