October 17, 2019 Fastball – The Help Machine (Album Review)
Platinum-selling Rock trio Fastball has been releasing solid album after album for over 20 years thanks to their infectious grooves, irresistible melodies, and whimsical lyrics. In fact, to many Fastball fans delight, they returned way back in 2017 with the album Step into Light. Their first studio album since 2009’s Little White Lies, this time the lapse between new material is not nearly as lengthy as Fastball prepares to return on Friday, October 18, 2019 with their new album, The Help Machine.
The second consecutive album via the band’s own label, 33 1/3 Records, coming together yet again are Guitarist Miles Zuniga, Multi-Instrumentalist Tony Scalzo, along with the ever amazing, solid Drummer Joey Shuffield. Consistently putting out solid Rock-n-Roll albums albeit with a tiny little twist, The Help Machine has a bit more of an ethereal feel to it. What does this mean? I means the underrated band just got even better!
Coming at you with 11 new songs, it all starts with spacey vibed “Friend or Foe.” With real life lyrics about never knowing who your true friends are, Zuniga voice is accompanied by fantastic harmonies and impressive instrumentation. Keeping your attention, Scalzo takes the lead on “White Collar,” a song about white collar criminals. Instantly coming at you with a strong groove, it helps paint the picture of criminal life with harmonic layers and a catchy chord sequences fans have come to expect from Scalzo.
Moving on, back in the saddle again is Miles with the track “Redeemded,” which features a catchy strummed guitar part which rides wonderfully lyrics convey the message not push your beliefs and thoughts on anyone but yourself. This matched with a great bass line, solid drumming, and some beautiful guitar work really put this song in a pocket that everyone can feel. Then right off the bat “All Gone Fuzzy” puts everyone you in a spot that we can all understand – yearning for the times when things were simpler. Captivating, it is a well-paced song filled with a driving drum beat, great chord progressions and a nice guitar solo laying right on top.
Complimenting its predecessors, “Surprise Surprise” is a beast of a song with dirty over-driven saturated guitars and steady drum beat that goes along with lyrics that you could imagine yourself singing to someone who has wronged you. A true gem, another standout moment comes with the Country shuffle style of ” The Girl You Pretended to Be,” which features Texas twang sounding guitars and a great melodic groove. This is all while other songs such as the album title-track and “I Go South” round out the album with heartbreaking, yet relatable lyrics.
When it is all said and done, Fastball has once again hit the nail on the head with The Help Machine. An album filled with everything that you expect from this band, the songs are well composed and showcase guitar work that ranges from dirty to more acoustic tones that are joined with words that are upbeat, pop-oriented, but still deeply thoughtful. Getting better with age, Cryptic Rock gives Fastball’s The Help Machine 4.5 out of 5 stars.