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One Of The Best Rock Albums You've Probably Never Heard Just Turned 20 Years Old

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 23, 2017 7:14PM

A Triple Fast Action promotional shot, circa 1995.

Triple Fast Action are one of those Chicago bands I am truly sad that no one will ever see play again, and few seem to remember them even though the band's influence is more far-reaching than many even know. Formed in 1993, Triple Fast Action brought together Wes Kidd, Brian St. Clair, Kevin Tihista, and Ronnie Schneider; and the quartet specialized in crafting amazing rock songs with hard edges and a power pop core. After the band dissolved in 1998, Kidd would go on to the management side of the music world, St. Clair moved to the drum stool behind Local H's albums from 1999-2013 before moving on to work with Liz Phair and Cheap Trick, and Tihista mounted a critically lauded solo career. But it was the magic these men worked together that helped create some of the best hard hitting melodic rock Chicago produced in the '90s.

The group ran in the same circles as Veruca Salt, Fig Dish, Menthol, and that whole slew of Chicago groups that spent many a late night drinking and partying together as the great wave of Major label talent scouts blew into town looking for the next big thing in "alternative" rock. Triple Fast Action was swept up in that wave, resulting in their 1996 debut on Capitol Records,
. By all accounts the album had a troubled birth, and the band never really seemed happy to be on the label. The album's creation may have caused the band grief, but to outside ears it still stands up as an excellent collection of songs, and a manifesto of sorts for the band. It took the group's sometimes unpredictable live shows and focused the songs into something more timeless. Broadcaster's only real downside is that it sounded like a band in the studio, and it didn't completely capture just what it was that made Triple Fast Action such a compelling band.

It did however spawn this amazing slice of music, "Revved Up," complete with uncredited backing vocals from Veruca Salt's Louise Post and Nina Gordon.

Broadcaster's follow up, Cattlemen Don't, was released on Oct. 21, 1997, and it channeled all of Triple fast Action's greatness into a single, solid, classic collection of songs that sounds just as fresh today as they did upon their unveiling to the world 20 years ago. The band had moved to Deep Elm records, a label primarily known for championing the emo movement through the late '90s and run by one of the more transparently stand-up label owners in the entire industry, John Szuch. Triple Fast Action had found a perfect home—alas, their life there would be short-lived because unbeknown to most, the group was about to implode.

Before we get to that implosion, here's a blast from my own past—my review of Cattlemen Don't from my college newspaper in 1997:

Bored of Rock and Roll? Feeling let down with the absence of music that makes your ass shake without employing sequencers or samplers? Pining away for the days when rock was a blood, sweat and tears twenty-four hour a day job for a band? Triplefastaction have your remedy with their second full-length release titled, "Cattlemen Don't."

After leaving Capitol records ... Deep Elm picked the boys up, allowing them to release what just might've been the best rock album to come out of Chicago (or anywhere else) in the last year. Buzzing Cheap Trick hooks and singing that veers from Wes Kidd's sweet tenor to his anguished yelps buttered on top of slabs of rock solid songwriting would put Triplefastaction [sic] at the top of the heap in a more perfect world. Unfortunately all they have to depend on is the hope that some people still care about the music. Anthemic without resorting to cliché, powerful without going cock-rock and sensitive without being trite, this is the album that restores faith in the inventiveness and still flowing lifeblood of an old-fashioned guitar band. Excellent.

Despite having just released their sophomore album, the pressures of touring and trying to remain an independent act in a corporate rock world had taken its toll on Triple Fast Action, causing guitarist Ronnie Schneider to leave the group. For live shows he was replaced by a rotating cast of guest guitarists, including Local H's Scott Lucas, Made To Fade's Sean Rice, Muchacha's Alex Acevedo, and Blake Smith of Fig Dish and Caviar. But it was never quite the same. Less than a year after Cattlemen Don't came out, the band played their farewell show at the Metro May 24, 1998. The amazing album they had just released never really got its due or a proper promotional push, and since then it has largely gone unheralded when it deserves to be heard by so many people.

Triple Fast Action has never reunited, and though a few of the members joined Local H to play a few classics in 2013, it doesn't look like the whole band will ever get back together, though they have remained friends over the years. For me the biggest loss was that while Kidd went on to the business side of the music industry, he never returned to creating music, leaving us without one of the more talented songwriting voices Chicago has produced.

Listen to Cattlemen Don't below, and discover a lost classic. You can pick up the album, paying whatever you want, through Deep Elm. And once you've fallen under the music's thrall, and probably gone back to check out Broadcaster as well, prepare to have your mind fully blown when you discover they have a whole collection of unreleased tracks and b-sides that are just as good as many other bands' strongest album tracks.