The Fastbacks – Answer the Phone, Dummy

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

I saw either the Young Fresh Fellows or the Minus 5 (it can be hard to tell them apart) some years back and it was the first time I got to see Kurt Bloch play guitar live. So it was to my great disappointment that, now that I live in the PNW and have increased my chances of seeing Bloch performances, I learned that he has taken over the drum throne for the YFF and has relinquished guitar duties.

What I Think of This Album

There is nothing wrong with this Sub Pop album, and there is a lot right with it. But it doesn’t really cohere very well, and it somehow ends up being less than the sum of its parts. Every traditional element is there, including a lengthy and impressive cast of drummers, to say nothing of guest vocals from the late great Kim Shattuck (the Muffs) and the very evil Ken Stringfellow (though no one knew it then, I guess), but – and it is shocking to say this about a band that is so fun and lively – it all lacks personality. That said, it is definitely worth a listen and individual songs will win you over.

Bloch delivers another set of excellent songs, including dynamic “Back to Nowhere,” the galloping but despondent “I’m Cold,” “On Your Hands,” surprisingly sophisticated and power-poppy “Meet the Author,” and “On the Wall.” Lulu Gargiulo and Kim Warnick sing with enthusiasm and acid-tinged sweetness, and making their critical contributions on guitar and bass. And Bloch’s guitar work shines once again, sometimes intricate and pretty and other times blistering and raw; the workout on “Went for a Swim” is particularly impressive and the chunky riffing on “I Found the Star” will get your head bopping.

If I am being honest, wonderful Kim Shattuck does not really add much to “Old Address of the Unknown.”

Six different individuals split time behind the kit:  Nate Johnson and Rusty Willoughby from Flop; Dan Peters of Mudhoney; Mike Musberger on loan courtesy of the Posies; Jason Finn (Presidents of the United States of America); and John Moen, later of the Decembrists.

The Best Thing About This Album

Bloch’s songwriting

Release Date

1994

The Cover Art

This ungainly collage does nothing for me, though I am somewhat intrigued by the tropical-colored telephone handset. So I guess it does something for me.

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