The Minor Leagues
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The Minor Leagues

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States | INDIE

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States | INDIE
Band Pop Alternative


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Minor Leagues: This Story Is Old, I Know, But it Goes On"

By Justin Cober-Lake 22 February 2010
Experts don’t recommend this plan of attack: releasing an indiepop rock opera about relationships and dating when you’re in your mid-20s. But the grand scale presentation fits—the mid-20s period, since mildy more mature than adolescent lamentation and giddiness, is served by the epic approach (on a shortish album) but is also prone to treating itself as deserving the epic approach. You can work with it, but you’re going to need the hooks, and fortunately the Minor Leagues have them in enough force to pull off their ambition. Coupled with intelligent lyrics, This Story Is Old, I Know, But it Goes On works outside its focus group.

The band does exactly what it should to be comfortable and catchy, but still interesting. There are a ton of influences here, from ‘60s rock to Britpop (vocalist/keyboardist Ben Walpole is pretty clear on his Pulp fandom) to maybe Elephant 6 stuff to whatever the kids are calling indie these days that isn’t dragging you down. At times you could imagine Phil Spector working with this group (“The Love That Never Was”), Grandaddy helping write their music around the time of Sumday (“Travel Agent”), or Saturday Looks Good to Me picking them up (standout track “Good Boys”). It’s a bit of a riot going on, which isn’t surprising given the album’s enormous credit listing (five members, five people featured, and 18 people given “With:” credit, primarily for laughing or clapping hands).

The resultant sound is memorable and idiosyncratic, but what ends up pulling me in is what I worried about given the opera concept at the title of the first cut, “Midlife Crisis at 25”: the lyrics. The group could have spun out a set of trite privileged disappointments, but instead they artfully created precise characters (“Let’s see if I’ve got this straight—you like primates and garage sales?”) in specific situations, even if that precision concerns the desire for movement (“Travel Agent”, “Elsewhere”). The people are neither flawed heroes nor noble losers. They’re just people muddling through. When our male lead sings, “So breakup with him, go out with me / It’s not difficult”, it’s not a crisis of conscience (that comes later) or a big moment. It’s a thing that people do.

That doesn’t mean the characters aren’t reflective. With its casual acoustic stroll building to a more orchestral arrangement, “Projections of a Person” aptly captures that transition we have to make between our imaginings of a partner, and the reality of an actual person. The line “You’re not everything I’ve dreamt of / But you’re everything that’s cost me sleep” depicts this moment of epiphany (a fortunate thing to have). The bridge deals with the shortcomings of language (a not atypical use of language), of trying to turn old words for new feeling, and the song can find its only resolution: “It is worth it.”

The statement might be questioned later. After all, these people are 25 and 21, so they’re nearly bound to mess up (which is not the same as to fail). There are temptations, and “dangerous friendships” creep toward illicit territory, and, well, kisses happen. Remorse can itself be damaging, if not properly released, and comparing minor sins to the major ones of others doesn’t work. “Good Boys” wraps all these issues into a straightforward rock number. If “God is watching on high with his trademark forgiving eye”, the romantic partners aren’t so merciful (at least not to themselves).

The album doesn’t leave us in a broken state. “The Love That Never Was” offers a strange and ambiguous sort of resolution, realizing the method to move on, to grow out of it, yet continually looking back, asking forgiveness now not for actions taken but for “telling this story again tomorrow”. Yet there is a tomorrow, and the path through it is delineated, so maybe we—I mean he—can move on. But, wow, how did you miss the woman in snow boots who’s “extolling the virtues of Jarvis Cocker”?

The Minor Leagues don’t give us an easy way out of it. We’re stuck in the past, rolling up on us like Faulkner in a record store or a diner. It takes some time to get around that, and if 25 can’t see 30, yes, we can forgive that, and we can wait. The “quarter-life crisis”, as a friend named it for me most of a decade ago, mostly requires waiting and thinking, and even when you’re not 25, it might be a concept that needs operatic scale to start to sort through. After all, the experts are old (older than me even) and not always right. For all their characters’ confusion, the Minor Leagues seem to get it.
Rating: 7/10 - Pop

"Allmusic review of The Pestilence Is Coming"

See a band name and album title like The Pestilence Is Coming by the Minor Leagues, and the first thing that comes to mind is "Please, no, not more screamo kids," right? That's what makes this debut album such a pleasant surprise. Featuring a conceptual and musical reach last seen in indie pop during the heyday of the Elephant 6 bands back in the '90s, The Pestilence Is Coming is a rather glorious chamber pop epic, featuring a total of 42 musicians and singers (including the four bandmembers) working together on a loosely structured concept album that faces the end of the world with a cheerful brand of lightly psychedelic indie pop. Structured like an old-fashioned double album, with each set of songs marked with side designations, The Pestilence Is Coming flows beautifully, with sprightly pop/rockers like "Expatriates" segueing into moodier dream pop explorations like "Social Club" through expertly deployed musical interludes and found-sound tape-loop freakouts. The songs are unfailingly melodic, and the arrangements varied enough to keep the listener's interest through the album's extended running time. Fans of everyone from Beulah through the High Llamas and Polyphonic Spree to the Flaming Lips will find a lot to love -

"The Pestilence Is Coming CityBeat review"

A mind-blowing "concept" album featuring 15 tracks of the group's incredibly refined, impossibly catchy Indie Pop. Over 40 (!) guests lent a hand in the recording, providing everything from horns, violin and bagpipes to choral/gang background vocals and handclaps. The results are astounding.. The album is a jubilant, dizzying collection, highlighted by colorful, kaleidoscopic melodies that just seem to pour out of Walpole effortlessly. Exquisitely arranged and sublimely orchestral, Walpole's songs are padded with layers of unique ornamental extras (xylophone, Peruvian pipes, glockenspiel, accordion, etc.), but none of it is extraneous. The lyrical thread is equally exhilarating. Walpole is a sharp, imaginative writer (reading the lyric sheet is almost as fun as listening to the songs), telling character stories and touching on everything from politics and class to isolation and love. And the hooks are some of the best you'll find on any Pop/Rock album; fans of undeniable melody-masters like Brian Wilson, The Kinks, Beulah, The Apples in Stereo and (old) Blur -- you have a new favorite band. - Cincinnati CityBeat (

"Origivation review"

With a veritable army of contributing musicians (42!) and a hilarious/timely concept, this epic record is exactly what a concept album should be. Similar in scope and melodic sensibility to the Decemberists, with a wry and sardonic sense of humor evocative of Ween, The Minor Leagues have put together a powerhouse album - a contemporary creative masterpiece of cynicism and musicality. 5 stars. -

"Pestilence review in Wheel's Still In Spin"

The scale of this album is amazing. It's full of grandeur - it tells a story of self-discovery and is layered with about 40 musicians. It's like some lost great American novel, but this one is set with a sonic quality of a Beulah pop album. Set it Cincinnati, where people have 'run away from the riots, the city, the fear.' And our narrator begins by thinking he has no control over his destiny, stuck in a city where 'the superficial scene's such a drag.' He needs out. And he begins to dream of more Ð of a Canadian dreamland. Through his dreams, he takes a new look at the place he lives and what he loves. He finds some solace in staying to himself. He fleshes out that love theme. And he realizes he has control of his destiny. (#3 - Best Albums of 2006) -


2010 - "Travel Agent" DVD
2009 - "This Story Is Old, I Know But It Goes On"
2006 - "The Pestilence Is Coming"
2005 - "Mail Order Brides"
2003 - "Sometimes My Arms Bend Back"
2002 - "Be Kind To Beginners"



Ben Walpole wishes he was British, fronting Pulp in 1995. Patrick Helmes wishes he was playing lead for Megadeth in 1988. But cruel fate has instead placed them both in The Minor Leagues, playing insidiously catchy indiepop for most of the last decade from their Cincinnati, Ohio homebase.

The Leagues' fifth album -- a kitchen-sink rock opera called "This Story Is Old, I Know, But It Goes On" -- arrived on Datawaslost in the November 2009 to rave reviews. Equal parts Pet Sounds and Dexys Midnight Runners, it's the band's melange of orchestral pop that's earned their previous albums comparisons to Beulah, New Pornographers, Blur, and the Elephant 6 collective, while managing to sound almost nothing like any of them.

Joined live by John Kathman (Nirvana, 1993), Josh Combs (Kinks, 1967), Luke McGlasson (Specials, 1978), Amanda Lee Anderson (Belle & Sebastian, 1999) and Hilly Kenkel (Ronettes, 1962), the Minor Leagues are preparing to take their now-septet on the road this fall and winter, touring the Midwest and beyond while working on a sixth full-length.