For anyone dozing through the middle innings of post modern doldrums, Fastball provides a blissful smash on the noggin.
Over the past year the trio has been clobbering concert goers in their Austin, Texas hometown, performing in front of packed houses under the name Magneto USA. But for reasons of paramount national security, at the beginning of 1996 the group selflessly changed their name to Fastball -- even though they're oblivious to America's drowsy pastime.
The band name may be different, but the essentials remain the same: featuring the dual lead vocals of bassist Tony Scalzo and guitarist Miles Zuniga -- while drummer Joey Shuffield provides the rhythmic kick -- Fastball continues to specialize in terse, edgy bursts of power punk/pop blending equal parts sweetness and savagery.
Make Your Mama Proud, their debut album, gives full vent to Fastball's acerbic humor and unrepentant rock 'n' roll attitude. Opening with the supercharged ditty "Human Torch," Fastball cranks through 14 songs -- each delivered with the stinging authority of a well-aimed brushback pitch.
A few of the standouts: - "She Comes 'Round," a tale of mildly obsessive infatuation, replete with British Invasion innocence and streetwise crunch. - The album's hell-bent title track, "Make Your Mama Proud," is simply, well... hell-bent. And not in some sort of lame satanic way. - Then there's "Are You Ready For The Fallout?," a song whose angst tinged, coming-of-rage lyrical bent is perfectly offset by a hook that sticks like peanut butter on the brain. - Neo-primitive chanting and blaring guitars fuel "Boomerang," the kind of seductive pop vehicle that even Ralph Nader would ladly risk driving. A witty send-up of small town gossip mongering (an obsessive hobby among many Austin denizens). - The brash sonic bounce of "Eater" belies its dark sentiments. Blurring the line between attraction and violence, this disturbing ditty proves that sinister items sometimes lurk in bright packages. - Clocking in at 1:59 and 1:51 respectively, the pop sheen of "Lender" and supercharged "Nothing" prove that great things really do arrive in small packages.
Before there was a Fastball, there was Tony, Miles and Joey. Hometown boy Joey Shuffield is an Austin native. Miles Zuniga grew up in Laredo, Texas; since moving to Austin his gregarious antics and wry humor have made him a local celebrity. Tony Scalzo, an expatriate punk from Orange County, California, also made his pilgrimage to Austin a couple of years back -- setting the stage for Fastball's emergence.
The trio first formed in August 1994, when Scalzo and Zuniga were introduced by their mutual friend (and ex-Wild Seed drummer) Shuffield. Scalzo and Shuffield had previously played together in Austin songwriter Beaver Nelson's band. And Shuffield first met Zuniga in 1989, when the pair began a three year tour-of-duty with major-label popsters Big Car. Upon introduction, Zuniga and Scalzo quickly discovered a strong personal chemistry (along with enormous common ground in their record collections, ranging from Buddy Holly to AC/DC).
"I think collectively we've got more influences in common than the average band," says Zuniga, "and it makes our music cohesive. When we write songs together, the hooks contain all three of our signatures. We're like a stock car with the original parts, working together at making the songs come to life."
The group's devotion to pop buzzcraft insures that each cymbal crash and guitar squawk exists for a singular purpose: to serve ye almighty song. Guided by that principle, and bereft of any extraneous instrumental filigree (read: minimal guitar solos), the salvos on Make Your Mama Proud trace a wry, noisy arc through the Fastball realm.
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