The Isotopes - Nuclear Strikezone (Cover Artwork)

The Isotopes

Nuclear Strikezone (2015)

Stomp Records

Baseball, Simpsons references, and punk rock: a few of America’s finest natural resources. The Isotopes, a band named after the beloved Springfield Isotopes, which spawned a real life, minor league baseball team, the Colorado Rockies’ Triple-A affiliated Albuquerque Isotopes; bring all of these elements together on their new full length, Nuclear Strikezone (it’s pronounced “nucular”), 24 minutes of baseball-card-packaged-bubblegum-pop-punk.

Novelty bands can be hard to stomach, as they are incredibly specific to select crowds who are in on the joke. In the case of The Isotopes, they play a familiar Ramones riff driven brand of punk, repurposed with 80 grade, Billy Hamilton-like speed, that can serve a large enough audience with their fun, upbeat, sing-a-long sound. Where the band scores best is in a bases loaded amount of parody and satirical content that will make baseball fans chuckle throughout the 11 aptly named tracks.

The Isotopes’ greatest tools are served in “Never Been Caught,” “Total Juicehead,” “Chicks Dig the Longball,” and “Magic Loogie” (adding another referential layer of 90s baseball and Seinfeld, to boot), hit and run tracks that precisely repeat mechanics: riff, verse, riff, chorus, riff, producing consistent fastballs over the home plate that is every Ramonescore fan’s content. Intentionally hacky and immature puns are thrown in from time to time, reinforcing the lighter side of punk's escape, coinciding with those subjectively cheering on millionaires hitting balls with sticks.

Raw power of emotion peeks through at times, demonstrated in “Night Bus Home to You,” “Hiroshima Dreamin’,” and “The Ballad of Rey Ordonez,” which take a somber tone musically, and lyrically, revolving around the themes of being on the road, away from loved ones for half the season; washed up players spending the twilight years of their careers overseas, and defecting from Cuba, dreaming of making it big (and failing) in the MLB, respectively; walking the chalk line of amusing references and harsh reality.

The ability to create novelty tracks and pack in as many baseball references as The Isotopes do, so smoothly, like an $8 cold one on a hot, July bleacher seat, cannot go overlooked or unappreciated. Stylistically matching content matter is accomplished in every song, a prime example being the vocals and guitars echoed, warped, and distorted on “Situation No-No,” an ode to Dock Ellis’ no-hitter pitched on LSD. The production quality is polished and the songs sound so clear and crisp, the overall, finely tuned delivery will be pleasing to punk fans in general, but Nuclear Strikezone is ultimately a tribute to baseball and its fans who toil over sabermetrics and the history of America’s favorite pastime. The Isotopes are the musical equivalent to “Homer at the Bat;” go set your fantasy baseball lineup, listen to this album, and, for the last time, get rid of those sideburns.