A great sense of humor goes a long way, as does a knack for writing feather-light pop tunes. So, even though Ball sings with a nasal, slightly clumsy voice, he and the three rockers in his band, the Chains, deserve a lot of praise for their jaunty debut album.
Like a good comedian, this Midwesterner who now lives in Hoboken, N.J., writes lyrics that give familiar topics a revitalizing tweak. "Artists in Day Jobs" describes characters who never lose their dreams of fame, or their pretensions, as they slog away at menial jobs. "Honesty" supplies cynical rules for a modern relationship: "The best policy is to tell them what they want to hear...The truth may hurt and lies are more convenient anyway."
Ball was discovered by the New York City duo They Might Be Giants, who sing backup vocals on one song. Like the Giants, Ball keeps his music hummable even when the lyrics get pretty weird. In one song that's especially strange (even for him), "Charles Manson's Birthday," Ball asks, "What can you get for a psychotic guy who's stuck in prison?" A copy of Ball's record, maybe? Nah. Get it for yourself instead. (Restless/ Bar/None)