The Help Machine (33 1/3 Records)
Reviewed by Abby Johnston, Fri., Nov. 29, 2019
Over the course of seven albums and nearly 25 years, Austin trio Fastball has created timeless playful rock constructions that fit into the musical landscape just as easily today as they did in 1995. The hitmakers' second album in two years, The Help Machine delivers on that ability once again with big, rock-ready flourishes slicked up by production from Los Lobos' Steve Berlin. Glistening guitar lines kick things off in "Friend or Foe," a dreamy alt-rock treat that takes its cues from Pavement, and the title track collapses understated, keyboard-led verses into a snappy bridge that follows in the same vein. Even then, The Help Machine offers surprising turns along the way. Booming percussion, blues, and Latin guitar lines bolster "Redeemed," and "The Girl You Pretended to Be" throws on boots with a band T-shirt for a dance hall stomp. All told, the album feels at once familiar and fresh.