reviews for "the past was faster"

The Past Was Faster is a home recorded, lo-fi tour de force. Kelley Stoltz plays almost every note on this recording while wearing his many influences proudly on his sleeve. There is certainly a strong Velvet Underground current throughout, but other bands are evoked from song to song, from Joy Division to Nick Drake. "The Fog Has Lifted" and "Vapor Trail" could easily be outtakes from Captain Beefheart and Syd Barrett, respectively. However, for all his musical chameleonship, there is a consistency to the songs that keeps it from sounding like a various artists compilation. Like his idols, Stoltz has an obscure and intriguing lyrical sense about him; words may or may not make actual sense, but they work together perfectly. Apparently Stoltz wrote these songs over a period of five years then recorded them at home after settling in San Francisco. The production values occasionally allude to the album's home recorded origins, but in a charming, not distracting, way. With such a long time to come up with a batch of really great tunes it will be interesting to see whether Stoltz can follow up, but The Past Was Faster is certainly a strong debut.

(Sean Westergaard)


There's an upside and a downside to the perpetual cheapening of recording equipment. The upside: musicians can begin producing music as soon as they've gathered together a few hundred bucks, and release that music without financial backing from a record company. Thus, musicians are free to pursue whatever musical inclinations they wish, no matter how freaky and/or experimental. The downside: Kelley Stoltz. The Past Was Faster is a collection of mediocre, generally bad lo-fi, about as refined and likeable as a syphilitic chancre.

From the first fuzzy seconds of The Past Was Faster, you can pretty much expect what's to follow: unmelodious, uninteresting four-track music. Kelley Stoltz wants to be Bob Pollard so bad, you can just picture him standing in front of a mirror, swinging a microphone over his head, pursing his lips, and singing "My Valuable Hunting Knife." What Stoltz lacks is the ability to infuse a few chords with the kind of energetic delivery and strong vocal melodies that have made Pollard the veritable indie rock god he's become.

While most of The Past Was Faster is merely lackluster, some of it is absolutely awful. After listening to the faux-country disaster, "The Fog Has Lifted," I'd have to say that Stoltz could be the worst Tom Waits impersonator of all time. Seriously-– rev up a vacuum cleaner for a while, and run an old rag through it, and you get a better Waits impression than Stoltz can pull off.

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the album is that every time Stoltz stumbles upon a halfway decent riff, he spends at least three minutes repeating it ad nauseam. After about two minutes of nondescript blandness on "Permafrost," the song breaks into a perfectly serviceable, pretty acoustic guitar riff. But the riff long outstays its welcome-– those same three or four notes repeat over and over again, as if Stoltz is saying to us, "Listen! I finally figured out how to write a song!" To make matters worse, The Past Was Faster's relative best track, a mellow number reminiscent of (but not nearly as good as) new Yo La Tengo, is actually a hidden track, buried deep into the album's last song, "Lonely Star State." And while the track is pretty decent, it certainly isn't worth the effort required to find it.

Yes, this album is not without its pleasant moments. But even when it's pleasant, it's still immensely derivative-- and not nearly as good as the material it rips off. The Past Was Faster plays like one man's botched attempt to try his hand at being a "musician." And when all is said and done, the record is to be taken for exactly what it is-– Kelley Stoltz playing with himself. We can only hope, for his sake, that he's better at that than he is at songwriting.

(Matt LeMay)


One-man records can be dangerous things. By their very nature self-indulgent, far too often there is a good reason why the music was created alone -- the artist's drive exceeds their talent, usually in large doses. Every once and again however, a gem tumbles into view. Such is the case with the debut from Kelley Stoltz. Lo-fi and loving it, The Past Was Faster stomps from Indie-land ("X-Ray Eyes") to the Nick Drake-ish "Popular Diseases" and on and on. This is a great record, one highlight being "The Fog Has Lifted," which could be a lost Captain Beefheart tune -- whack guitars, the razor blade vocals, and lyrics that seem to be from another (better) dimension. Stoltz plays and records well, without wallowing in folkie-land or endless noodling-ville (two problems with most projects of this sort.) He simply writes good songs, with touches of Syd Barrett ("Vapor Trail") and others, but all with a unique voice. This is inspiring stuff -- it makes you want to rush out a buy a four-track.

(James Mann)


Legend has it that beat poet William S. Burroughs couldn’t remember writing his definitive work Naked Lunch. Apparently, he went to Tangier, blacked out and woke up several days later with the finished manuscript sitting on the typewriter stand. The Past Was Faster might have been similarly channeled to songwriter Kelley Stoltz’s four-track. Recorded at home by Stoltz (who also sang and played all the instruments), this debut release is a tiny, lo-fi work of art, decorated with spur-of-the-moment lyrics and off-the-cuff production genius.

"There was no thought in the process," sings Stoltz on the psychedelic "Vapor Trail" and that much is delightfully obvious. One can imagine Stoltz enjoying his own lost weekend, hopped up on inspirational smack and roaming the house like a man possessed. We can almost see the rumpled artist wandering back and forth between the drum set in the kitchen and the vocal mic hung over the bathtub drain.

Every long trip has its mood swings, and The Past Was Faster documents the highs and lows. "Sculptures Floating on the Waves" morphs from calming, mantralike loops to play-the-piano-like-a-percussion-instrument-until-the-fingers-begin-to-bleed-a-bit madness. Bukowski would be proud.

Elsewhere, word-salad vocals devolve into headphone-ready instrumentals. And on "The Fog Has Lifted," Stoltz even convincingly recalls Beefheart’s early days as a private. I imagine it took a half-dozen pots of coffee (and producer Monte Vallier’s expert mixing) to sort out the damage in the morning.

Of course, that’s probably not how it really happened. Still, stranger rumors have started over less. Kelley Stoltz should be careful. The Past Was Faster is the stuff of weird new legends.

(Adam Druckman)   Detroit Metro Times