The Fastbacks were one of the longest-running bands from the Northwest: they formed just after the first wave of punk (in 1979) and lasted through the hardcore, hair metal, and grunge eras. But they disbanded in 2001, 22 years after their start, so if you didn’t get a chance to see them, you missed something awfully special. They completely knocked our socks off that night. I had never witnessed anything quite as spastic and invigorating as Kurt Bloch jumping around on the stage like a hyperactive child with a bellyful of sugar, somehow never missing a note. Kim Warnick and Lulu Gargiulo played with equal enthusiasm but fewer gymnastics, substituting energy where other bands might prefer precision.
I saw the band four or five times after that, both as openers and headliners, and I can’t recall a single time when they weren’t the best band of the night. They played each show as if it was their very first. I also saw Bloch several times with The Young Fresh Fellows (who we’ll write about eventually) and The Minus 5; he appears to be that excited all of the time.
That excitement and exuberance, however, doesn’t extend to the lyrics, which are usually quite melancholy. In fact, the sharp, sunny melodies create a fantastic counterpoint to the generally glum, lonely subject matter. Whatever you say about The Fastbacks, they weren’t the cool kids growing up, but they also never indulged themselves in the embarrassing, narcissistic emoting of today’s emo and punk bands. The most commonly made comparison, in terms of music, is The Buzzcocks, but The Fastbacks also carried the torch for the more arena-friendly power pop bands of the 70s, like Sweet (whose “Set Me Free” was a staple of their sets) and Cheap Trick. And people may roast me for this, but here it is anyway: I prefer The Fastbacks to The Buzzcocks. Always have.
These tracks all date from their earlier records and singles, some of which Sub Pop later collected on the compilation The Question is NO. Starting in 1992, they recorded mainly with Sub Pop; the earlier labels included No Threes (Bloch’s label), Pop Llama, and Lucky. We’ll eventually get to the Sub Pop records, which are really when the band peaked, as much as I love the older material.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the band’s history with drummers, so here it is: they had a lot of drummers.
Early single tracks:
From Very, Very Powerful Motor (1990)
From Bike Toy Clock Gift (live in1988)
The songs are also on the .zip file here.