High heater 

music-fastball-cd_330jpg

High heater


CD Spotlight

In the post-Nirvana landscape of '90s alt-rock radio, attention spans were short and loyalty was thin. In sharp contrast to the '70s, when most successful bands slowly developed audiences - and radio interest - over the course of several albums, '90s rock featured a parade of mediocre one-shots that inspired no commitment: Better Than Ezra, Semisonic, Nada Surf, Third Eye Blind, Presidents of the United States of America, the Bloodhound Gang, and the Refreshments. Where are they now, and who could care less?

It's tempting to lump Fastball into this category, because the Austin trio hit a commercial round tripper in 1998 with the hooky single "The Way," but couldn't make it out of the batter's box with the more sonically ambitious follow-up, The Harsh Light of Day. In the four years since that letdown, they've been forgotten, if not exactly gone.

CD Spotlight

Keep Your Wig On

Fastball

(Rykodisc)
Keep Your Wig On finds Fastball re-emerging with a new label (Rykodisc), new producers (Mike McCarthy, Jeff Trott, and Adam Schlesinger), and a new creative approach (collaboration between songwriters Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo). The whole project has a back-to-their-roots feel about it, but in Fastball's case that doesn't mean stripped-down, acoustic demos. It means an all-out concession to their love of lush '60s Anglo-pop, an obsession they previously masked a bit to keep them from sounding overly retro. More than ever, they invite comparisons to cult bands like Baby Lemonade and Superdrag: smart, spirited classicists who can slip into blandness when the material sags.

This album finds Fastball's batting average unusually high. From the ethereal piano balladry of "Shortwave" (a first cousin to Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed") to the soulful melancholy of "Drifting Away" and the record-collector homage of "'Til I Get It Right," this band sounds rejuvenated, even if their execution is fresher than their ideas. •

By Gilbert Garcia


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