I always play song 3 first whenever I buy a new album. I’m trying to find the sweet spot first. I am guided by the baseball protocol to place a team’s best pure hitter in the third spot in the lineup.
Usually, my approach does not bear any special fruit. Albums from the vinyl days seemed more structured to save the gems for the beginning or end of one of the sides – often leaving the 3 spot with filler. Nowadays,it seems like most albums are front-loaded, more like the general intent of a baseball lineup, though it doesn’t seem to me that there is any trend to place great importance on the number 3 spot in an album.
But every now and then I find that perfect song – rich and pure – right there at number 3. When I do, I look further to see if the album lineup could succeed as a baseball lineup.
The current CD hogging my car stereo works pretty well as a batting order. Wilco (the album), the latest effort from my favorite active band is worthy of a baseball lineup analysis.
So here is Wilco (the lineup).
1. Wilco (the song). The leadoff hitter should set the tone for the team. Here, with a droll characterization of all that is Wilco, is Wilco (the tablesetter).
2. Deeper Down. The second slot is typically given to a control bat , a song that can move the runner over. Wilco does what many teams do – put a light-hitting middle infielder as a placeholder. If it’s possible to capture in a song the essence of fouling off a lot of pitches – this song does that.
3. One Wing – Third – the best pure hitter, the best pure song. Tweedy through beautiful metaphor (on base percentage) and Nils Kline through virtuoso guitar (slugging percentage) have created an OPS gem.
4. Bull Black Nova — Here is the power spot. Wilco has a ‘roid rage paranoia trip taking power rips for your speakers fences. Maybe not Ruth and Gehrig, but Wilco has put a great 3-4 combo on this album.
5. You and I — It’s good to mix in righties and lefties – or in rock parlance : rockers and ballads. Wilco adds a left-handed ballad (and duet with Feist).
6. You Never Know — Still room in the lineup for another big RBI song – the closest thing that Wilco has to a radio hit (if radio did rock anymore).
7. Country Disappeared — The bottom of the lineup is the place for the specialty roles, the aging good-ole-crowd-pleaser, experimenting with a rookie sound. There are familiar Wilco strains all over this one.
8. Solitaire — I love the simple hard-learned lesson of this one. This song is my shortstop – a sweet and sublime fielder batting eighth.
9. I’ll Fight – Here’s the brush back pitch. A brash flamethower of a pitcher slotted number 9 (I’ll go National League rules — from place of origin or place of residency – I suspect Tweedy to be either a Cubs or Cardinals fan).
10. Sonny Feeling – Okay, the batting lineup metaphor breaks down – few albums (non art-rock variety) limit themselves to 9 songs. But this song sounds like a middle reliever – so I’ll just keep filling out my lineup card.
11. Everlasting Everything – And here is the closer. Kind of a veteran, ground-ball inducing type, not a high strikeout-rate type of song. It can still pile up the saves.
There it is. Wilco (the Scorecard). I challenge you to take a favorite album and see how it stacks up as a baseball lineup.