In the post-Nirvana landscape of '90s alt-rock radio, attention spans were short and loyalty was thin. In sharp contrast to the '70s, when most successful bands slowly developed audiences - and radio interest - over the course of several albums, '90s rock featured a parade of mediocre one-shots that inspired no commitment: Better Than Ezra, Semisonic, Nada Surf, Third Eye Blind, Presidents of the United States of America, the Bloodhound Gang, and the Refreshments. Where are they now, and who could care less?
It's tempting to lump Fastball into this category, because the Austin trio hit a commercial round tripper in 1998 with the hooky single "The Way," but couldn't make it out of the batter's box with the more sonically ambitious follow-up, The Harsh Light of Day. In the four years since that letdown, they've been forgotten, if not exactly gone.
This album finds Fastball's batting average unusually high. From the ethereal piano balladry of "Shortwave" (a first cousin to Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed") to the soulful melancholy of "Drifting Away" and the record-collector homage of "'Til I Get It Right," this band sounds rejuvenated, even if their execution is fresher than their ideas. •