Pittsburgh natives know great music when they hear it. Not only do they warm to the talents of local singer-songwriter Bill Deasy, but they also take the Clarks to their hearts like long-lost sons. Superstars in their home city, yet virtually unknown outside of Pennsylvania, the band have probably become comfortable with such a curious level of lop-sided success by now, but maybe, just maybe, the band's seventh studio album, Fast Moving Cars, will finally let the rest of America in on the act.
The band's third effort for New York-based indie Razor and Tie will no doubt shift the band's regulation 40,000-plus copies in the Pittsburgh area alone, but it's not merely loyalty to local heroes which guarantees such success; the Clarks are able to sell out 13,000-seater arenas in Pittsburgh through the consistently good music they produce album after album.
The band's most recent studio album, Another Happy Ending, made the Billboard Top 200 in 2002 and dabbled with different sounds and production approaches at times, but on Fast Moving Cars, the Clarks return to their staple sound of drums, bass, guitar, and voice with impressive results. The driving, insistent beat of opener "Hell On Wheels" sticks resolutely to the band's tuneful pop-rock formula and confirms that the band are back in fine style, especially when vocalist Scott Blasey launches into the song's soaring chorus. Ditto brand-new anthem "Shimmy Low", a song that deserves to lift the roof off arenas nationwide, not just Station Square in Pittsburgh.
Fast Moving Cars showcases the songwriting talents of all four band members, and although Blasey and bassist Greg Joseph contribute the lion's share, guitarist Rob James' raucous rocker "You Know Everything" warrants special mention. Such a democratic approach cements the Clarks' sound and makes for an eclectic listen, with the excellent laid-back title track, mid-tempo "Wait a Minute", and acoustic "Train" adding diversity to the more traditional, straight-ahead tunes "Gypsy Lounge" and "Anymore".
Elsewhere, the quality level is maintained with the rousing "Happy" -- a song, curiously enough, about depression -- the poppy "Blue", and the sublime "Take Your Time" (co-written with the aforementioned Deasy), all of which should add to the already-oversubscribed request list for live shows.
Fans of the Clarks know that each new album always delivers the goods, and Fast Moving Cars is no different. As the title suggests, the album will hopefully take the band on a journey into the consciousness of other music fans quicker than a NASCAR Chevy.