Fastbacks: ‘The Question is No’ (liner notes, 1992)

You don’t usually find the Fastbacks in features on ‘The Seattle Sound’ or ‘America’s New Liverpool.’ The Fastbacks don’t sound like anyone else in town, and they’ve been around since well before Nirvana was a gleam in the Melvins’ eyes. Twelve years and counting, for guitarist and songwriter Kurt Bloch, bassist and singer Kim Warnick, guitarist and singer Lulu Gargiulo, and various drummers, from Duff McKagan to Richard Stuverud to Rusty Willoughby—and they can still play as if the notion just occurred to them. There’s no attitude in their music, and very nearly no style—instead, a headlong, heedless impulse to communicate, to come across. Warnick’s vocals may sound flat, at first—after a tune or two what you hear is real life, real talk, lifted, drama­tized, slamming the walls. That’s how music like “Everything That I Don’t Need” catches the passion, the blood, and the regret of an all-night argument—even if it’s with the mirror.

The Fastbacks are an unreconstructed punk band—or, maybe, unconstructed, period—and also full of pop. They’re not ashamed to cover Sweet, still in love with the Buzzcocks, and a sense of fun, the thrill of breaking loose, is almost always near the center of their songs. Their edge—feeling that more is at stake in any piece of music than can be said in any words—might come from all their years in the pop wilderness, a wilderness of no-fame and no-money that remains as present in the music they’re making now as it was implic­it in the first numbers they ever cut. The Fastbacks hammer on the door of an imaginary audience— the millions who could care less about their heart-on-their sleeves noise—as if it were most of all the fact that the door is closed that keeps them talking. Through it all there is a snap in the music—moments of dissatisfaction, frustration, refusal to settle for what every­one has been raised to take for granted. It might come with a bent note from a levitating Kurt Bloch (he plays better in the air than anyone I’ve ever seen), the way Kim Warnick might nail the last word of a line, or with Lulu Gargiulo fading that same word—but it will always be there. This band can turn you around no matter where you’re standing.

Fastbacks, The Question is NO (Sub Pop, 1992)


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