Baseball’s Rick Ankiel and GNOD.
I’m a man of many interests, and they don’t always intersect. It’s hard to throw together a crew of bros who get excited about outfield assists AND have a copy of the first pressing of the King Blood Eyewash Silver LP on Ignorant Gore. Whether those groups are mutually exclusive or not, they both probably don’t leave the house too often. But: sometimes while puttering around I accidentally discover a magical peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate combination that transcends my interests and becomes something fantastic enough to warrant sharing with the wider world.
Of course I’m talking about the wildly, insanely, defiantly great pairing of Washington Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel and Manchester, UK-based noise-drone collective GNOD. Of course I am.
It is unlikely that you’ve heard of both of these things, so here’s a quick primer:
Washington Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel is, first and foremost, a mean-looking man with no lips. That’s probably the most important thing you need to know about Rick Ankiel.
Another interesting fact about Rick Ankiel is that he can throw a ball very hard, very far, and extremely accurately. This is an absurdly specialized skill that in 2012 only habitually comes in handy when you play baseball for a living, but he is with very little room for argument the best at it in the whole world.
If you wanted to stop hearing about Rick Ankiel now, you’d have enough information to understand what makes him go great with GNOD. But for extra seasoning you might also want to know the following Rick Ankiel trivia: that before he was an outfielder, he was once one of the best young pitchers in the sport; that all at once over the course of three playoff appearances in October of 2000 he mysteriously and completely lost the ability to throw strikes, while everybody was watching, in one of baseball’s greatest meltdowns ever (think of the tennis scene from Royal Tenenbaums, except in real life); that he fought his way all the way back into the major leagues as an outfielder (pitchers and outfielders are about as different as jockeys and race car drivers); and ALSO that his super-shady father went to jail in May of 2000 for drug trafficking and throwing a loaded handgun out of a moving car. So that’s a little backstory in case you are fascinated by guys who are mean-looking, lipless, hard-throwing, and have been through some weirdly rough times.
Ankiel’s story is totally incredible to anybody with the sense to know that you have to be really amazing at playing baseball to make it to the Major Leagues at ANY position. It’s the kind of thing you definitely would have heard of if it weren’t for the fact that he’s not the best outfielder of all time. Americans only like Disney endings, and a weird “found a measure of stability and quiet redemption as a bench-player-level outfielder who’s bounced around from team to team while boasting of the best arm in baseball” Tender Mercies-style outcome doesn’t really get the juices flowing for most casual fans. The announcers love him, though. They know how hard it is to be good enough to play baseball for a living. So you might have heard of some of this stuff.
But again: the most important things to know about Rick Ankiel, for our purposes, are that he is a mean-looking man with no lips who throws baseballs harder, farther, and more accurately than any other man alive.
GNOD is a group from Manchester who primarily record longer, drone-and-groove based noise jams with a real ominous vibe to them. Think about what would happen if somebody took an Oneida 45 and played it at 33rpm. What would happen is this: something hypnotic, churning, propulsive, impressive, and kind of scary. They’re one of the better unheralded noise outfits in the world right now.
Sometime in 2011, however many of them (they’re a duo which adds members according to whim, and details are both sketchy and unimportant) holed up in a cabin in the French countryside for a week, presumably ingested a substance or two, and recorded a series of improvisations, to later be released by Tamed Records in France in limited quantities as a couple of LPs called Chaudelande, Volumes 1 and 2, which have received praise from no less a tastemaker than Julian Cope.
If you are not familiar with this band and you like to go on brain journeys, you need to get your act together and fan up.
And this brings us to present day, when an unassuming yours truly multitasking my alone time to maximize enjoyment-per-minute, watched the Washington Nationals play baseball while listening to the recently-issued Chaudelande Vol. 2. And here is where I made the incredible discovery that a noise collective from Northern England of all places is the perfect soundtrack to the on-field exploits of one Rick Ankiel.
The moment is difficult to recreate. Major League Baseball hates their fans way more than GNOD does, so they routinely scrub all highlights from YouTube, because in a Joseph Goebbels-meets-misguided-Steve Jobs move, they want to be the only people showing their own highlights. They would just rather be able to project a squeaky-clean image of themselves than attract young fans by allowing them to watch original footage of Doc Ellis’s LSD no-hitter or that time Randy Johnson exploded a pigeon with a fastball. So, in regards to Rick Ankiel and GNOD, what could very easily be accomplished as a simple fan-generated sports highlight-compilation video on YouTube with way better music than normal (usually it’s some shitty melodramatic club banger with a fake string section meant to imply some sort of dramatic struggle) is now a manual operation.
But: there are rewards. Like for example, how often do you get to see a white guy in sports approach what is often referred to as “swagger?” Rick Ankiel does, with GNOD’s help. How often do you have no way to convincingly demonstrate your side of an argument against some effete liberal arts graduate student who claims “baseball is boring” without ever attempting to understand the underlying tension of potential greatness inherent in every pitched ball? GNOD can help with that too. How about getting stoned and watching awesome things while listening to music, does anybody enjoy that? Meet Rick Ankiel, who is basically Valhalla Rising but for throwing baseballs instead of bad vibes face-crushing.
If you’re not afraid of a little DIY, I strongly suggest you play yourself some GNOD in one browser tab while turning the sound off (or low) for some Rick Ankiel outfield-throw highlights in another browser tab. And then get back to me and tell me if you’ve emerged enlightened by a true connoisseur of time wasting. Or not. All I know is, this shit gives me goosebumps, and I’ll feel good about myself if I can reach just one person to illustrate the awe-inspiring power of Rick Ankiel’s left arm as scored by an obscure noise band that probably loves fucking soccer or else no sport at all.
Previously: How the Internet Works