Fastball | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Fastball 

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FASTBALL

Summer ended weeks ago, and by then even I'd fallen out of love with "The Way," Fastball's ubiquitous and supremely catchy breakthrough single. I was sick of its melancholy minor-key verse, sick of the way its shapely chorus hugs the chord changes, sick of the band's rock-solid playing--sick of all the things that make it one of the best pop records of the year. But then I finally read the lyrics, and those months of heavy rotation were all forgiven. In the first verse a man and a woman pack up their belongings and skip town together, making "an exit to eternal summer slacking"; when their car breaks down in the second verse, the couple ditches it and continues on foot. Yet the final verse circles around and bites these would-be Levi's models on the ass: back home, their children wake up to find mommy and daddy gone. Lyrically, none of the other songs on the Austin band's sophomore effort, All the Pain Money Can Buy (Hollywood), really measures up to "The Way"; too many indulge the same postcollegiate ennui that the first single so slyly deflates. But the record's still a heaping plate of meat-and-potatoes southern rock, full of winning hooks and deft harmonies. "Fire Escape," the follow-up single, dishes out three minutes and 21 seconds of riff-heavy jangle pop; "Which Way to the Top?" simmers quietly, saturated with burbling electric piano; and "G.O.D. (Good Old Days)" bursts into the room like a Tom Jones horn section. It's a great album now, and it was a great album four years ago, when Velvet Crush released it as Teenage Symphonies to God. That band seems to have vanished without a trace, and Fastball may well follow it into the alt-pop dustbin. So who'd have the heart to deny the boys a few more days of summer? Monday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. J.R. JONES

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos by Karen A. Peters.

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