Fastball

All the Pain Money Can Buy 20th Anniversary Edition (Omnivore)

Texas Platters

When 1998 began, Fastball hung on to their deal with Disney-owned Hollywood Records by a whim. The local trio's energetic, hook-infused 1996 debut, Make Your Mama Proud, didn't sell, and conventional logic suggested album two would result in their major label swan song.

Accepting that bet, bassist Tony Scalzo and guitarist Miles Zuniga doubled down on crafting songs bigger than the band itself. By year's end, Scalzo's "The Way" boasted platinum returns. Based on a news story about an elderly Texas couple that disappeared and were later found dead, the Latin- and Casio-tinged ballad retains its eerie allure decades later. An unearthed demo included on this reissue hints at but doesn't confirm the coming explosion. Zuniga's "Fire Escape" became a plucky hit in its own right, while deep tracks "Better Than It Was" and "Charlie, the Methadone Man" flesh out the back bench. A frantic, tribute album rendition of Herb Alpert's "This Guy's in Love With You" befits Pain's A&M Studio pedigree. A tuneful soundtrack for the sound of the Austin Curse being laid to rest.

***.5

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