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Keep Your Wig On

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Album Review

In 1998, Fastball scored a hit single with "The Way," which propelled its album All the Pain Money Can Buy to platinum sales. The resulting pressure proved too much for the Austin-based power pop trio, and they took a few years off before returning to the scene with this, their debut album for the respected Rykodisc label. The time off seems to have worked as a tonic; on Keep Your Wig On, Fastball's sound is tight, sharp, sometimes humorous, and always supremely well-crafted, despite the group's carefully cultivated garage sensibility. But then that's not really any significant departure for a band that has always placed far more value on musical pleasure than on hipness. There's certainly nothing hip about the soulful and Beatlesque "I Get High" (complete with prominent piano and 1960s-style vocal compression), the honky tonk strut and wry politics of "Mercenary Girl," or the faintly Freedy Johnston-ish folk-rock of "Perfect World." They even quote themselves, stylistically anyway, on the Latin-tinged "Red Light," a song that harks back explicitly to that fateful hit single of six years ago. Derivativeness is easy to forgive — to celebrate, even — in a band that provides this much musical pleasure.

Customer Reviews

90's pop/rock personified, adamantly refusing die...

While to most it happened after "Out of My Head" slid off the charts, Fastball seemed to fall off the face of the earth, even for those who were looking for them after their follow-up album The Harsh Light of Day commercially failed. The record briefly peaked at #97, despite some lukewarm-at-best radio attention for the disc's piano-driven lead single, "You're an Ocean", featuring professional ivory-tickling legend Billy Preston and some of the group's sharpest songwriting. The rest of that album failed to keep it that crisp, sinking into a smog of a gin-goggle glaze and a hash-smoke screen. It was Fastball at their most desolate, but they managed to keep the hooks intact and gripping, amounting to a good album by any rock 'n' roll standards, but it was undeniably bleak—which is why it didn't come as a surprise when guitarist and songwriting partner-in-crime Miles Zuniga called it quits and headed out to Nashville. At some point, Fastball reformed, complete with Miles and their disheartening cloud of gloom. Dropped by Hollywood Records, their web site at the time seemed to be conceived by Chapters 1 through 3 of "HTML for Dummies", MS Paint and a forty of Captain Morgan. A bitmap of a shotgun produced a "Russian Roulette" of new demos, all of them just as dismal as Harsh Light, and the performances were subdued on each track except "Airstream", where an honest sweeping chorus broke through the smog, gasping for just an ounce of fresh air, in more ways than just lyrically. But nonetheless, it seemed unlikely that one would ever find a disc of theirs in a store again. But then, something wonderful happened. Our good friends at Rykodisc threw our favorite Austin trio a line and shortly after, out comes Keep Your Wig On. And that's just what the boys do. After the opener, the hazy "Shortwave", the guitars kick in—not too loud, just loud enough—and the good times roll. This is Fastball with the crystal-clean-but-not-overprocessed production that they almost achieved on All the Pain Money Can Buy. And some of the bitmap-gun demos are even resurrected and polished. "Red Light", the closer, is given a Mariachi brass flare, turned into a true samba-rockin' dance number. (And let this be a message to all bands that you don't HAVE to end your records on near-flatlining ballads.) There are highlights on this record, to be sure. As you can probably ascertain from the previous two paragraphs, Airstream is just tear-jerkingly beautiful here, but Louie, Louie (not a cover, and the spelling varies depending what you're reading) is upbeat and quite possibly more fun than the guys have been on their last two outings. 'Til I Get it Right follows in the same vein, but in a minor key and a standing challenge not to crank your stereo way the hell up to. (Plus, who doesn't love out-of-left-field saxophone solos in rock tunes?) Drifting Away, I Get High, Our Misunderstanding, Perfect World... these all sound like classic Fastball tunes but they've tightened their songwriting and their playing to where they're making their sonic point more crisply and perfectly than they ever have. And it's this that makes these highlights tough to pinpoint, the album is never really weak after Shortwave ends, and there isn't a track from there on out that doesn't beg for repeated listening of some sort. If a phoenix could really rise up from the ashes before your very eyes, it would probably look like this album sounds. Because Keep Your Wig On is 90's pop/rock personified, adamantly refusing die... and presenting an airtight 40-minute delightful argument why it—and Fastball—are not going anywhere.


Their best effort yet. Contains a variety of hit-quality songs. Definitely worth a few thousand listens.

Keep Your Wig One - Fastball

Tons of hooks, strong melodies and strong writing make this my favorite Fastball CD. Each song pretty much stands on its own and is unique. "Drifting Away" is pure rock pleasure. Music too clever for most radio stations.


Formed: 1994 in Austin, TX

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed in 1994 in Austin, TX, Fastball combined a fondness for melodic, Beatles-inspired pop with the alternative aesthetic of late-'90s mainstream rock. Guitarist/vocalist Miles Zuniga, bassist/vocalist Tony Scalzo, and drummer Joe Shuffield -- all veterans of Austin's underground rock scene -- originally banded together under the name Magneto U.S.A. After signing with Hollywood Records, the musicians changed their name to Fastball (sharing the name with the title of their favorite baseball-themed...
Full Bio
Keep Your Wig On, Fastball
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Alternative, Indie Rock, Punk
  • Released: Jun 08, 2004

Customer Ratings