Fastball Try Out Different Rock Sounds on Steve Berlin-Produced LP ‘The Help Machine’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Fastball is a band best known for “The Way”, a song that spent seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts. The band hasn’t been dormant since then even if their songs haven’t been quite as ubiquitous as “The Way”. The Help Machine – produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos and numerous other notable projects – is the band’s seventh studio album.

“Redeemed” is the first song that captures the attention with a bluesy melody that stands in contrast to the straightforward alt-rock sounds of its predecessors. It’s hard not to notice the bass line in this one. “All Gone Fuzzy” is another song that makes you take notice. The melody – particularly the keyboard – is reminiscent Elvis Costello’s early songs. Even the vocals have a bit of similarity to Costello. At the end of the song, you hear three-part harmony vocals that take you back to artists like The Band. 

“The Girl You Pretended To Be” is an uptempo alt-country rocker with strong backing vocals. The guitar solo brings Lucero to mind while the rhythm section keeps the song chugging along. This is perhaps the strongest song on the album, which makes it odd that it’s buried as the eighth track.

That’s really it for the songs that catch your attention to any degree, with the other songs taking on more of a bland sound. The title track, for instance, sounds like a song that might end up in an episode of Gray’s Anatomy when one of the characters is going through a crisis.

Overall, this is a fine album that is well-produced with an enjoyable sound. However, when you get to the end of the album, you realize that none of the songs have really stuck with you. Not only that, but you realize that if there is a single on the album, it wouldn’t stand out from the other alternative rock you hear on the radio. 

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