Fast Moving Cars Label: Razor & Tie
Uncovering a band like The Clarks at this point is about as original as rediscovering The Clash upon the death of Joe Strummer a couple years back. Better late than never, though. My colleague Mr. Farley gushed over their 2002 release, Another Happy Ending, but for whatever reason it went unnoticed. For a band with a half dozen or so albums and years of touring the Midwest (mainly Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana) under their belt, however, one could say The Clarks’ career has gone largely unnoticed. Too bad. These native Pittsburghers are deft musicians who explode on stage in a manner more impressive than anything they’ve recorded -- and their CDs aren’t too shabby, either!
Fast Moving Cars gets revved right off the line with “Hell on Wheels,” a bright and jumpy romp that provides the virgin Clarks listener with a pretty fair sample of what’s ahead. Singer Scott Blasey’s vocals are crispy clean and effortless, like something that has always been in the musical space around you but rarely acknowledged. When they appear later this month on David Letterman’s show, odds are they’ll tear through “Shimmy Low.” For my money, this is the finest radio rock song of 2004. I dare you to spin this one a couple times and not find yourself singing that contagious chorus for the rest of the day.
It’s not that Blasey and the boys are breaking any new ground. In fact, the list of bands that clearly influenced these guys is endless. They have paid tribute to everyone from The Beatles to The Replacements with their live covers, and most any college band of the last 20 years (from Green Day to The Connells) can be heard somewhere along these songs. Giddiness abounds on tracks like “Happy” (“I’m not high on life, I’m not drunk on love, I’m broken down and not feeling right”), but when they need to pull their horns in and chill down to a lounge tempo (“Fast Moving Cars”), The Clarks are more than capable. The thrasher “You Know Everything” flexes their punk rock muscle, while the closer “Train” damn near flirts with contemporary country. Talk about variety!
The world may not know The Clarks, and with the mindlessly manufactured crap that dominates the FM airwaves, there is little assurance of changing that anytime soon. The fortunate few who have seen them play live or stumbled upon their songs by way of a fellow Steeler fan’s recommendation are the chosen ones. I’ll take a disc like Fast Moving Cars on vacation any day, and what the folks next to me on the beach get in secondhand rock just might change their lives.