Monday, October 01, 2007

The Fastbacks are always right

My introduction to The Fastbacks happened in high school, when I went to see Beat Happening at the OK Hotel with my friends Amy and Khaela. Mecca Normal played the first slot on the bill, and I must admit that we found them a bit abrasive; none of us had heard anything quite like them and were too wet behind the ears to appreciate them. When we mentioned this to Khaela’s cousin, Bret Lunsford, he responded that we might find The Fastbacks more immediately appealing.

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:

“Someone Else’s Room” (1981)
“It Came to Me in a Dream” (1986)

From Fastbacks . . . and His Orchestra! (1987)

“Wrong, Wrong, Wrong”
K Street

From Very, Very Powerful Motor (1990)

“Better than Before”
“Everything That I Don’t Need”

From Bike Toy Clock Gift (live in1988)

“Only at Night”
“In America

The songs are also on the .zip file here.



Susan M said...

Thanks for these. I saw the Fastbacks a lot but they always were overshadowed by the other bands at the time---Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Tad, U-Men, etc.

You ever going to post some Bundle of Hiss?

Lamestain HQ said...

You're welcome! It's a shame that the Fastbacks were constantly relegated to the shadows, because they were pretty great for years and years.
We posted some Bundle of Hiss in one of our first posts. The links, sadly have all expired. We'll likely put it up again at some point, as it's great stuff.

Dan 10Things said...

Sweet, you found the Guns'n'Roses/Fastbacks show flyer! When I was researching Gorilla Gardens for my own blog, it seemed like a lot of people thought it was just a rumor GNR played there, including manager Doug Mays. It's odd how they just called it "Rock Theater" on the flyer.

Anonymous said...

Fastbacks is one of my favorite bands. I have all of their records available in Soulseek (spreading the seed) as midugno (my username). The band never achieve the mainstrean even doing non-heavy rock and that's good.

PS: I have all the Flop's albums available in Soulseek too but not those singles posted a month ago. Unfortunatly, the link was down now (could you upload it again?)

ayu said...

dear lamestain,,
thank you so much for sharing these cool stuffs. you`re dead right,, the fastback will always right.
ive browsed all over the internet and didnt find it yet till i saw your joyous blog...=]

Bryn said...

Thanks for these great Fastbacks tracks! I first saw them here in Victoria in 1990 when I was 18 and this older lady sneaked me into the bar to see them. I haven't seen her in many years but I still have the Fastbacks tapes she made me.

Jessica said...

I absolutely LOVE you for putting The Fastbacks on here! They are amazing! Thanks, love your blog!

dude said...

wooohooo fastbacks!

btw, did you hear green river is reuniting next year? how cool is that?

Anonymous said...

I saw the G&R show with the Fastbacks opening... It was in a place called the Meatlocker near the International District. I saw tons of the Fastbacks... One of the best show's I remember was new years eve 1984 at Ground Zero. It was a joint cover night - one ticket got you in to shows at the Metropolis, Ground Zero and the Graven Image. The U-Men played and as did this out of town band from Texas, The Butthole Surfers.

Anonymous said...

"One of the best show's I remember was new years eve 1984 at Ground Zero. It was a joint cover night - one ticket got you in to shows at the Metropolis, Ground Zero and the Graven Image. The U-Men played and as did this out of town band from Texas, The Butthole Surfers."
--I was there too! Big night, still have the 'big brother' flyer for that night.

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