Fastball Tickets for Sale

Immediately recalling the Wallflowers (who recall Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm) comes this Austin, Tex., trio who specialize in crossover songs dipped like a Dairy Queen cone in a vat of chocolaty warm tone. The sound of a grinding Hammond B-3 organ pumped through old, wooden Leslie cabinets undulates over clean piano lines, clickety-clack railroad-track drum staccatos, succinct basslines, tube-tone electric guitar, and soulful vocals that edge out those of Jakob Dylan.

When musicologists add this year's chapter to the history of rock, they'll talk about the proliferation of rock-rappers, pre-packaged boytoys, and scantily-clad teen nymphs. Thanks to Fastball, however, 2000 will actually end on a high note. The Harsh Light of Day picks up where 1998's platinum-plus All the Pain Money Can Buy left off. It's an intoxicating album with a depth and emotional range that broadens with each listen.

With Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo evenly dividing songwriting and lead vocal duties, and drummer Joey Shuffield supplying the laser-guided groove, Fastball's 1998 breakthrough All The Pain Money Can Buy propelled the group into the big leagues. Led by the smash singles "The Way" and "Out of My Head," the album notched platinum-plus sales and earned critical praise from all quarters.

Today, instead of merely trying to replicate the hit-fueled sound of their previous disc, the band members stride forward on their new album The Harsh Light of Day. "We now have the resources to stretch our ideas further," says Scalzo. "I like the word 'expansive,' because it implies that you're still true to your original roots while growing into new areas. It's not a departure…it's building on a foundation." "Instead of tailoring the music for short attention spans," adds Zuniga, "we tried to make an album that holds up well to extensive listening…kind of cinematic, where you notice new themes entering the frame each time you see the film."
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Like its predecessor, The Harsh Light of Day was produced by Julian Raymond and Fastball. Through 12 songs, it reaffirms the group's knack for edgy, post-modern pop while also exploring greater stylistic diversity. Debut single/video "You're An Ocean"-featuring Billy Preston on piano-introduces an album that spans guitar-driven mania ("This Is Not My Life," "Wind Me Up," "Morning Star" and "Time"), stark introspection ("Goodbye," "Whatever Gets You On") and haunting ballads (including the bittersweet gem "Funny How It Fades Away").

A pair of back-to-back songs-one each by Scalzo and Zuniga-illustrate the group's broadening horizons. Sporting a mind-bending mariachi vibe, "Love Is Expensive and Free" shows Scalzo's songwriting extending well beyond rock 'n' roll. The song features elegant guitar work by special guest Brian Setzer, as well as outstanding traditional instrumentation by Jose Hernandez and his orchestra.

With its moody twilight sonics, "Vampires" finds Zuniga discovering new territory as well…but just don't ask him what the lyrics actually mean: "I'm not sure of that myself," he laughs. "I tried to make the song more specific, but I realized that I was lopping off its legs. So I decided to let the lyrics reflect the dreamy vibe of the music. I guess I just like to romanticize about being hung over and sleeping late."

The group strikes a delicate balance between pushing the envelope and simply letting each song speak for itself. "We don't shackle our sound in the pursuit of success," says Shuffield. "All three of us are drawn to rock and melodic, pop-oriented stuff-along with a stiff dose of heavy metal. By doing what comes naturally, we can add other elements and still retain the spark that made a song idea sound so cool in the first place."
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