Fastball From Texas Not Quite On Mark

Posted: October 31, 1998

The Austin, Texas, trio Fastball is at a point where it could go down as a one-hit wonder or go on to make a longer-lasting impression.

It's not that ``The Way,'' the catchy saga of elderly RV adventurers that has gained blanket MTV and modern-rock-radio play, is the band's only worthwhile song. Frontmen Tony Scalzo and Miles Zuniga, who played the Theatre of Living Arts on Thursday with drummer Joey Shuffield and an unintroduced guitar-and-keyboard player, put a bunch of solidly crafted British Invasion-meets-Texas garage-rock tunes on the sophomore All the Pain That Money Can Buy (Hollywood).

It's just that ``The Way'' clearly rises above the pack. And at a time when music-industry emphasis is on hit songs rather than careers, bands such as Fastball are in peril of ending up as four-minute footnotes.

Although the band turned in a competent performance - pulling off such soulful numbers as ``Sweetwater, Texas'' and ``Slow Drag'' as well as crunchy rockers including the new single, ``Fire Escape'' - Fastball didn't forcibly argue for its staying power.

For one thing, the TLA was only one-third full, a sign that fans are bopping along to ``The Way'' without connecting with its creators. For another, the band turned in a paltry 45-minute set before returning for two encores, and failed to demonstrate the flair or energy likely to generate repeat business.

David (pronounced DAH-veed) Garza made better use of his time on stage.

The Austinite's major-label debut, This Euphoria (Atlantic), is an overlooked gem. Garza mingles an effortless, unrestrained vocal technique reminiscent of Jeff Buckley's with pop smarts that recall everyone from Matthew Sweet to Elvis Costello to Led Zeppelin. At TLA, he put the emphasis on power rather than polish, losing subtlety but gaining attention from the get-go.

Opener Joan Jones seemed unsure of whether she wanted to be an angsty singer-songwriter or a leather-panted rock diva.

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