Outformation: Fastburn

outformation-fastburn.jpgOutformation's Fastburn is a bittersweet portrait of what once was; a snapshot of the band at the time of recording, a band that's still morphing to find it's identity.

The opening track, "One More Time," has CR Gruver's stamp all over it, a sort of swan song before the keyboard player left the band. "One More Time" is a great start for the album; it has a great solo by Sam Holt and phenomenal backing vocal harmonies.  While the band has shifted gears since Gruver left, this version of Outformation was clearly coming into its own.

Fastburn depicts the versatility of guitarist Sam Holt and company. From the road-tested "Faded Memory" to the instrumental "Eleventeen," the album shows all sides of the "old" Outformation.  There is a certain (and possibly intentional) irony in the album title, as "fast" is not exactly the adjective that comes to mind when considering the disc as a whole. About half of the tunes are of the slower persuasion.

It's a bit tough to listen to the disc as a new release when the line-up is already outdated, but Outformation has always been about Holt, and he shines.  His sound, once heavily (and rightfully) compared to Mikey Houser, is now his own.  The guitarist's phrasing and tone have drifted farther and farther away from that of the late Panic guitarist as Holt has spent more and more time out on the road, and it's abundantly clear that the only thing tying the two together today is the equipment.  He's definitely no carbon-copy knock-off.

If there's any song on the album that truly typifies Outformation at the point of recording, it's the title track.  "Fastburn" is quintessnetial Outformation. The percussion powers the jam, which is built by Holt's guitar and Gruver's keyboard work. The disc closes with the big, slow rocking "Maneki Neko" and "Girl From The North Country," and at the same time, CR Gruver-era Outformation is closed as well.

Only time will tell which line-up of the fledgling band becomes the line-up that the band is finally known for, but as Fastburn shows, the bar has been set fairly high.

Fastburn is out now.