The Harsh Light of Day
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2000, Volume 7, #11
Written by John Metzger
In concert, Fastball wields an unbridled power and energy reminiscent of The Who during its Live at Leeds era. Fastball's studio output, however, is becoming something altogether different. On its sophomore effort All the Pain Money Can Buy, Fastball upped the ante by embracing a more polished sound, which spawned the infectious hit single The Way. While nothing on its recent release The Harsh Light of Day quite manages to recapture the magic of that song, the new outing successfully demonstrates how quickly the band has perfected its approach to songwriting, and not surprisingly, the album is much more cohesive.
The Harsh Light of Day is predominately influenced by the pop music of The Beatles' and the solo efforts of that group's principal songwriters. Witness the heady swirl that slices through the center of the John Lennon-influenced This is Not My Life or the lyrical reference to Paul McCartney's Venus and Mars in You're an Ocean. Likewise, the Band on the Run riff that concludes Vampires provides the perfect lead-in to the Jet-fueled introduction of Wind Me Up.
While Tony Scalzo and Miles Zuniga do cop the songwriting duality of Lennon and McCartney, they hardly are content to stop there. Love is Expensive and Free melds Ben Folds Five with an Eagles-style guitar solo and a string arrangement à la Elton John. Also felt is the sway of Dada (Funny How It Fades Away), Squeeze (Whatever Gets You On), Toad the Wet Sprocket (Goodbye), Oasis (This is Not My Life, Time), and the Jackson Browne/David Lindley pairings of the mid-'70s (You're an Ocean) — to name a few.
Much like it did on its previous effort All the Pain Money Can Buy, Fastball strings together a group of songs that loosely touches upon and reflects the title of its album. On The Harsh Light of Day, the band's songwriting has continued to grow and mature as it continues to explore the interrelationship between love and pain. This time around, the ensemble's point seems to be centered around the cyclical nature of relationships as expressed by the movement of the stars. Spirits of the night wander haunted streets, straining to make a connection. Read the song titles: Love is expensive and free. Funny how it fades away. Don't give up on me. Lyrically, it's not overly sophisticated, but it's strong enough to hold the album together. As with All the Pain Money Can Buy, it's the infectious melodies that grab you, draw you in, and hold your attention. And The Harsh Light of Day is full of them. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box