Fastball

Keep Your Wig On

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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.

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