Fastball

Texas platters

Phases and Stages

Fastball

Keep Your Wig On (Rykodisc)

Fastball went on hiatus four years ago because one song had overshadowed their decadelong career. Actually, it was a smash that eclipsed the rest of their output, 1998's "The Way," but the local trio knew it deserved better. Splitting vocal and songwriting duties, bassist Tony Scalzo and guitarist Miles Zuniga have more going for them than a single tune. Since day one, it's been obvious they possess that classic Lennon/McCartney tension. Leave it to a few months on the road and a 2003 live record to ease all the ties that blind them. With Keep Your Wig On, Fastball returns to the scene with the kind of pop-laden album that should have followed "The Way" in the first place. While you may only get one chance to make a first impression, Fastball finds its groove quickly, and starts impressing with the delicate tones of "Airstream" and the bar-friendly bravado of "'Til I Get It Right." Scalzo writes the pop songs, but when he and Zuniga share songwriting credit ("Our Misunderstanding"), they invent a new kind of Fastball. Okay, "I Get High" might not be new, but collaboratively speaking, it hits the spot. Moments that are otherwise about fragile relationships ("Our Misunderstanding") sound even more poignant given the turbulent history of the people performing them. It's only disappointing when the band plays it safe with timid power pop throwbacks like "Lou-ee, Lou-ee." Otherwise, Keep Your Wig On demonstrates Fastball still has a few tricks up its sleeve. (Fastball's CD release is at the Parish, Friday, June 11.)

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