A1 All The Records On The Radio Are Shite (3:46)
A2 Stars And Stripes (3:36)
B1 Building For The Future (4:58)
B2 Welcome To The New Year (3:04)
This band seem strangely averse to putting out any records on vinyl. As far as I can work out, this is the only one they've ever released. That's out of a current total of 7 EPs and 4 LPs. If I ever see them around Edinburgh (for they are based here too) I'll have to have a word. I have tried to see them live, but in one of those strange coincidences that plague life, every time a gig comes up, I'm out of the country.
Anyway, because of the lack of vinyl, I'm going to have to make this my general-review-of-all-things- Ballboy-wot-I-like-post. Because there are some songs that are truly excellent, and your lives would be much improved by hearing. Some of them you can even get for free on their own site: http://www.ballboymusic.com/
Let's start with the title song from this EP though, and see where it leads us. It's a jaunty number, the usual drums, guitar & keyboards bolstered by a lovely trombone riff. The jauntiness hides the dark theme of the song, being principally concerning the vocalist's inability to love anyone enough - either the girlfriend he's recently split up with, or someone he might pull in a club later. But, "Without hope/we don't have anything"... so maybe he hopes he will manage to love someone enough, and/or the girl he's with should hope that too, and it might work out.
The vocal delivery is half-spoken half-sung, a feature of many an early Ballboy number. The best, and most affect, examples of this style are A Day in Space, and I Hate Scotland, both of which appear on ironically-titled singles compilation Club Anthems 2001. The latter can be download from the aforementioned site, and there's a video on YouTube.
As it explains in the blurb on YouTube, its a song about compensating for low expectations in life with the simple highs of sporting activity, or rather, putting all hopes and dreams to one side, "for a springboard, a pair of shorts and a plain white t-shirt... and the ability to do a perfect backflip." It also has some great lines about Scotland, which I think he's allowed to say, being Scottish:
"I hate the way everything always has to be someone's fault
Even though some things just happen
Some things just happen...
I hate the way people bring up their children to be exactly the
same as they are
Just so they can justify the way they've lived their lives
I hate the way that we expect to fail
And then we fail
And then we get bitter because we've failed."
A Day In Space is better though. Here are the full lyrics: http://www.ballboymusic.com/lyrics/club/#2, it sends a tingle down my spine each time I hear it. Because who doesn't want to go into space, really? Why not wish for im(or near-im)possible things? Why settle for a nice car and maybe seeing the pyramids? This is a simple two-chord strumming song with light harmonising, and also a beautiful, quiet rant against mediocrity.
One niggle - the opening line, "All the records no the radio are shite/except mine" - whilst you could forgive the singer for perhaps being tongue-in-cheek, the arrogance chimes quite nastily with the opening track from 2002's A Guide For The Daylight Hours album, Avant Garde Music. In this song our hero is bemoaning the fact that, "the girl who works in the record shop/she says that i/am not avant garde enough", but concludes he doesn't care, because "she only works in a record shop". If I were in a band, I would care very much what people in record shops thought about my music, what with them being able to influence purchasers an'all.
Stars and Stripes seems to be a song about an American artist, but I don't know who. Some nice lines in this too, "And you're sick of drink and waking up/to headaches and financial embarrassment/But it keeps on happening...", and it sounds like it could have been on 2003's The Sash My Father Wore and other stories - a record I recommend highly to all.
Again, there are two tracks from this album available for downloading on Ballboy's own site, both gems. You won't get the title track though, but you can see the lyrics here: http://www.ballboymusic.com/lyrics/sash/#5, and if you own an acoustic, get the tab too, and play it to bigoted proselytizers of any stripe, anywhere.
It was rightly in Peel's Festive 50 that year, along with I Gave Up My Eyes, which
is a song of such staggering emotional depth it makes you wonder why
other guitar-based bands release the anodyne, wassy songs they do. Here
is a bona fide example of something that is decidedly not average nowadays, unlike your pointless songs, Kaiser Chiefs.
On the second side, Building for the Future is a meditation on loneliness and loss, and features the plaintive violin sound that often crops up on Ballboy songs. Welcome to the New Year finishes things on bit of a solo-acoustic downer, "Sometimes I hate myself/And I feel like giving in" being the main refrain.
I'm personally glad that they're still going though, and hopefully, one day they'll do a gig in Edinburgh and I'll be able to go.