Fastball
All The Pain Money Can Buy
(Hollywood)
½


Fastball's debut two years ago listened like Buddy Holly on Green Day. Some of that punk pop fury is gone this time out, replaced by an ear for wider textures, while retaining the sharp melody craft that made Make Your Mama Proud so exciting. While most of the songs on that earlier disc crunched by with frantic abandon in much less than three minutes, the majority of tracks on All The Pain Money Can Buy clock in lazily over that three-minute barrier. The Austin trio has definitely taken time to stretch more than just the length of their material this time out, adding keyboards on several tracks, augmenting their normally full power pop guitar attack with the drone of a cello on "Charlie, The Methadone Man" and celebrating with a shiny, strutting '60s horn backdrop on "G.O.D. (Good Old Days)."

Fast or slow, this is a band with an unmitigated pop rock sensibility. The barrelhouse piano and ice rink organ of "Out of My Head" harvest the pure simplicity of mid-'70s pop, and the bossa nova backdrop, spaghetti western bass twang and tight punchy harmonies of the band's current high-flying single, "The Way," prove the members of Fastball as connossieurs of a wide pop hook landscape, not punk-focused snobs.

Try not to join in on the "aaaahs" in the power pop gem "Warm Fuzzy Feeling" (which slips in a mention of Make Your Mama Proud). Try to stop your body from sliding into the slow blue electric piano groove of "Better Than It Was" (which features an inspired duet with Poe).

On second thought, don't try so hard.

 

The Tuesdays
The Tuesdays
(Arista)

½


Five cute, young, ready-for-MTV twentysomething girls from Norway sign to Arista Records...sound like a Spice Girls spinoff? Not quite. Imagine rather a marriage of The Bangles, The Go-Gos and Wilson Phillips with a dose of that exotic girl-pop harmony sound that the Scandinavians are known for (ABBA, Ace of Base).

That's probably the best description I can provide of the debut album by catchy all-girl group The Tuesdays. They offer happy songs of love with a PG-rated sex appeal (their first single, "It's Up To You" promises coyly, "you can hang your toothbrush next to mine") and a solid Beatles penchant. Chiming moderate rock tempo guitars, enthusiastic harmonies, singsong melodies and a Top 40 feel throughout make for an instantly hummable album of cotton ear candy.

Despite their European roots, The Tuesdays have reached out for help deep into the American Midwest. Chicago South Siders Enuff Z'Nuff contribute the song "Wheels" to the girls' cause (which was the lead track on EZ's last disc) and Sheryl Crow helps out in the songwriting department on two songs. Songwriter Billy Steinberg, who's written hits for a bucketful of bands, including the Bangles, also pops up in the credits on one track.

There are no "brilliant new anthems of a generation" to be found on The Tuesdays debut, but there are 11 songs that go down sweet and easy. If you've ever missed the output of Susanna Hoffs or Belinda Carlisle, you need to own this album.

 

New On The Shelves:


The Epic Records soundtrack to HBO's From Earth To The Moon production is out, and includes a dozen period titles along with the main theme by Michael Kamen. Included on the disc are The Byrds' "Eight Miles High," Donovan's "Season of the Witch," The Who's "Magic Bus," The Archies' "Sugar, Sugar" and more...If you didn't get enough Gaelic last month for St. Patrick's Day, Windham Hill would like to bring you some more. The well-known New Age label has just released three discs of modern Gaelic music. Daughters of the Celtic Moon featuring harpist Lisa Lynne is a gorgeous instrumental collection of string and flute songs, including a cover of Sting's "Fields of Gold." Patrick Cassidy's Deirdre of the Sorrows takes a more orchestral traditional bent, covering the music of Carolan (1670-1738) with the help of a symphony. While probably the most classical-leaning disc Windham has released, it includes vocals recounting the 12th century story of Deirdre of the Sorrows, from a group of tales detailing the exploits of Ulster warriors at around the time of Christ. Celtic Requiem featuring Mary McLaughlin with William Coulter is probably the most familiarly Gaelic sounding disc of the three, with a lamenting mix of keening vocals, softly picked guitar, and a background of uilleann pipes, whistles, cello, harp, fiddle and bodhran. The disc focuses not on the traditional reels and dances, but rather on the slow melancholic traditional Celtic sound.