Fastbacks

Bike-Toy-Clock-Gift

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Originally released only on cassette by No Threes, a subsidiary of PopLlama Records, in 1989 and subsequently reissued on LP and CD, Bike-Toy-Clock-Gift chronicles a particularly shambolic period in the Fastbacks' muddled chronology, when guitarist Lulu Gargiulo had temporarily left the band, reducing them to a core duo of singer/bassist Kim Warnick and guitarist/songwriter Kurt Bloch, along with drummer-of-the-moment Nate Johnson. Mixing tracks from two 1988 performances, Bike-Toy-Clock-Gift sounds surprisingly good for a live album from a next-to-unknown punk-pop band of the late '80s; almost all other live albums from this time and place are muddy, lo-fi audience tapes, but this is a well-engineered multi-track document. The sound is terrific, but the performances are more hit and miss. The energy level is way up there and Warnick screams and trills her way through a fine selection of some of Bloch's best early songs, but Gargiulo's rhythm guitar is sorely missed. Forced to play both rhythm and lead, Bloch mostly settles into Ramones-style thrash, which suits the songs well enough (particularly the cover of da bruddahs' "Swallow My Pride," which Warnick coyly turns into a sly bit of feminist empowerment) but lacks the sonic variety of the two-guitar attack. Still, this is a fine snapshot of one of the most endearing and underrated American indie groups of their time.

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