Smashed Hits


Sunset Blvd. Records, 2023

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Queen. U2. Radiohead. Fastball.


Well, yeah, if the category is “bands with careers spanning three or more decades who’ve never had a single lineup change.”

That consistency extends beyond the personnel—Miles Zuniga (vocals/guitars), Tony Scalzo (vocals/bass) and Joey Shuffield (drums)—to Fastball’s music: punchy, jangly, forever tuneful and frequently quirky power-pop. While they may still be cursing me for the review where I compared them with—gulp—The Beatles—the truth is that Fastball still has a bit of that vibe going, with yin-yang songwriting tandem Zuniga and Scalzo trading lead vocals while Shuffield steadies the ship with a muscular backbeat.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For this live outing, captured in March 2023 at The Saxon Pub in the band’s hometown of Austin, Texas, the trio is augmented by guest keyboardist Dave Schultz. While he doesn’t have much to do on straight-ahead riff-rockers like “Fire Escape,” Schultz adds valuable color and momentum on numbers like “Hummingbird” and Scalzo’s ebullient “You’re An Ocean.”

The evening’s setlist mixes and matches nicely, pairing fondly remembered album tracks like the thrummy “Warm Fuzzy Feeling” and the driving “Damaged Goods” with classic hits like “Out Of My Head” and a sprinkling of more recent fare. In the latter category, 2019’s pulsing “The Help Machine” is a standout, given a passionate reading, along with 2009 single “All I Was Looking For Was You,” an earnest four-on-the-floor entreaty that disarms with sincerity.

The boys, who’ve always shown a keen appreciation for the classic, pull out a surprising nugget here with a ringing, pounding cover of The Doors’ “Touch Me.” It’s a fun warmup for the big finish, which starts with an energetic reading of megahit “The Way”—a bouncy number that’s actually a ghost story—complete with audience singalong. The night closes out with driving rocker “Sooner Or Later,” a fine showcase for the entire group’s slightly shaggy, ever-friendly brand of head-bobbing power-pop.

Fastball is a survivor of the early 2000s alt-rock implosion that cost dozens of notable acts their record deals, but has persisted through two decades since because they can: they’re terrific songwriters and, as demonstrated here, energetic and charismatic performers. Will Smashed Hits change the world? Magic eight ball says: very doubtful. But it sure oughta get your ass out of your chair.

Rating: B

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© 2024 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sunset Blvd. Records, and is used for informational purposes only.