The Phantom Tollbooth
Artist:  The Fairburns
Label:  Ninety Degree Records
Time:  10 Tracks

Nobody plays rock music anymore. It's been replaced by ska, swing, hardcore, and "alternative," whatever that means. The Fairburns apparently mean to resuscitate late '80s/early '90s rock and roll, and do a fairly good job with it.

Lead singer Andy's vocals could easily be compared to those of Jason Pettit (Glisten) -- they're deep and throaty, yet not afraid to get emotional. Andy belts out lines such as this excerpt from "Professor":

His life's in a box and he hopes for sunshine
That and a little nip of wine keeps him happy
Well, maybe not that happy
He says, 'Don't think I'm not you - don't think it's not true
I'm the picture of what loveless failure will do!'
He turns and says, 'Hey, son, what's your addiction?
As you can see, the lyrics tread a fine line -- evangelical, but not evangelical; Christ-centered, but not Christ-centered; openly religious, but still artsy. The Fairburns are quite obviously a Christian band, but wouldn't run into problems trying to play secular bars or clubs.

Well, they might have one problem. Compared to the lyrics, the music is remarkably sub-standard. It's not so much that it's dated (though it is)--it's more that the music is boring, and played rather half-heartedly. If The Fairburns could just get excited about the music they're playing, they could be a truly great band. Until then, something's missing.

Michial Farmer 9/18/99