The Fastbacks – The Question Is No

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

It is entirely possible that the Fastbacks are the most punk band not only in my collection, but the country. Keep your Fear, your Fugazi, your Dead Kennedys. They are all more professional, polished, and popular than the Fastbacks, who formed in 1979 and didn’t release their first album until 1987 (and even that one was cobbled together from a series of sessions, only one of which took place in an actual recording studio), and who never have had a permanent drummer. High school friends Lulu Gargiulo, Kim Warnick, and Kurt Bloch formed and essentially remained the Seattle band until 2001 (or maybe 2002, who knows? See? Punk as fuck). At first, Bloch drummed, Warnick played bass, and Gargiulo was the guitarist while a friend handled vocals. Quickly trimmed down to a trio, Bloch took over on guitar and Warnick grabbed the mic and they scraped by with random drummers thereafter. Those drummers have included two members of Flop, Mike Musberger of the Posies, Richard Stuverud (who has been associated with members of Pearl Jam), Tad Hutchinson from the Young Fresh Fellows – another band Bloch is in, Mudhoney’s own Dan Peters, and of course, future Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan. The alternative/grunge/Seattle boom in the ‘90s resulted in the Fastbacks opening for Pearl Jam on an international tour, but of course, that didn’t translate to fame and fortune.

What I Think of This Album

The Question Is No is a delightful collection of singles, compilation tracks, and unreleased songs on Sub Pop featuring five drummers (including, yes, Duff) and covering twelve years of the band’s history. Seven tracks are from 1980-88 and the other six are from the productive-by-comparison era of 1991-92, though the newer songs are presented first (mostly – per the liner notes, this was a decision intended as an explicit “fuck you” to people like me who want a strict timeline).

Displaying a remarkable consistency despite the years and the drummers, the Fastbacks play hooky, speedy, fuzzy poppish punk descended from the Ramones and akin to a less tortured Buzzcocks. Kurt Bloch is a triple-threat, writing engagingly catchy melodies, playing tough lead guitar that is actually more Cheap Trick than anything else, and offering up lyrics that are thoughtful and intelligent. For their part, Lulu Gargiulo and Kim Warnick sweeten and soften things up with their lively vocals, adding a girl-group element to the sound.

Warnick worked at SubPop and was in Visqueen with Rachel Flotard (Neko Case) in the early 2000s. Her husband for some period of time was Ken Stringfellow of the Posies. Gargiulo is a cinematographer and filmmaker.

The Best Thing About This Album

Um, Duff. Okay, not really, but almost. “Lose” is a fantastic fucking song, with the brilliantly titled “Don’t Eat That It’s Poison” nipping at its heels.

Release Date

June, 1992

The Cover Art

Dumb, but my main objection is that a drummer is in the pic. Also, I think this cover was just repurposed from the The Answer Is You release photo shoot. That’s punk.

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