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The Forty-Fives – High Life High Volume

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(Previously reviewed here.)

No one likes being pigeonholed. I sure as hell don’t. If you tell me that I am A, you’re negating the possibilities of my being B through Z, to a certain extent, and that’s just gonna piss me off. Don’t fence me in & all that. On the other hand, as a quasi-critic I’ve found that using genre labels is a kind of shorthand to describe the way a band sounds. If I refer to a band as being neo-folk with overtones of be-bop and honky-tonk, I’ve given you a quick and dirty orientation as to how they hit my ear. It saves me a lot of time (which I can then spend doing something useful, like drinking), and you can decide pretty quickly if it’s worth your while to continue reading the review. Win-win.

Trouble is, sometimes those labels don’t really do justice to the band in question. Take, for example, the Forty-Fives. There’s a real temptation to sorta dump them in the “garage rock” bin and be done with it. That was certainly the quick impression I got after hearing “Superpill” for the first time. This was the tune that perked up my ears and got me interested in reviewing High Life High Volume in the first place. It starts out with a nasty little riff, courtesy of Bryan Malone’s guitar, that sticks with you for days, buzzing and grinding for the full 3:03 running time over Malone’s shouted vocals (which seem to have something to do with, uh, pharmaceuticals of some sort), and Trey Tidwell’s keyboard accents. The handclaps are not quite standard garage equipment, but what the hey, right?

There are a couple of other numbers here and there throughout the course of the disc that would probably pass muster as garage-influenced, at the very least; “Bad Reputation”, for one. But the truth is that there’s more going on here than just the usual growl and blast. It’s a mix of Yardbirds/Stones-type British Invasion (“Go Ahead and Shout”, for example, which features some nice harmonica from Mick Collins of The Dirtbombs), some Stax-esque stuff (the instrumental “Backstage at Juanita’s”, the cover of Otis Blackwell’s “Daddy Rolling Stone”), the pseudo-country rootsy romp of “Bicycle Thief”, the power pop of “Junkfood Heaven”… overall, there’s really sort of a Flamin’ Groovies feel to things. More Roy Loney than Cyril Jordan, if you know what I mean, but elements of both. I’m not sayin’ they’re as good as the Groovies, but they’re not too far off, either. Little Steven digs ‘em, and that’s generally a good sign.

I’m willing to bet that the Forty-Fives are much better live than in the studio, too. The production by Jim Diamond (lead bassist for The Dirtbombs) seems mighty clean. Then again, I spent the better part of last week listening to a couple of records with a combined recording budget of about $50, so that might have something to do with it. Be that as it may, the horns that pop up occasionally seem totally tacked on, aside from the slow dance “Too Many Miles”. I can understand the band wanting to open up their sound a bit, but they’re so generally airtight that the horns never really get fully integrated into their sound. Frankly, they don’t really need horns anyway.

As for their sounding better live than on record – you’ve got the opportunity to check that out for yourself, provided you’re gonna be in the US of A over the course of the next month or so. The Forty-Fives are in Austin for the duration of SXSW, but after that, they’re touring all over the damn place:

03.21.05
(w/ Shonen Knife, Gore Gore Girls) @ Launch Pad, Albuquerque, NM
03.22.05
w/ Shonen Knife, Gore Gore Girls @ Plush, Tucson, AZ
03.23.05
w/ Shonen Knife, Gore Gore Girls @ Brick By Brick, San Diego, CA
03.24.05
w/ Shonen Knife, Gore Gore Girls @ Galaxy Theatre, Santa Ana, CA
03.25.05
w/ Shonen Knife, Gore Gore Girls @ Spaceland, Los Angeles, CA
03.26.05
w/ Shonen Knife, Gore Gore Girls @ Slim’s, San Francisco, CA
03.27.05 @ Hemlock Tavern, San Francisco, CA
03.29.05 @ Alibi, Arcata, CA
03.30.05 @ Sabala’s at Mt. Tabor, Portland, OR
03.31.05 @ Clipper, Olympia, WA
04.01.05 w/ Ruby Doe @ 3B’s Tavern, Bellingham, WA
04.02.05 w/ Ruby Doe, The Valley @ Sunset Tavern, Seattle, WA
04.03.05 w/ International Playboys, Ruby Doe @ Area 5, Missoula, MT
04.05.05 @ Burt’s Tiki Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT
04.06.05 @ Club 156, Boulder, CO
04.07.05 @ Larimer Lounge, Denver, CO
04.08.05 @ Brick, Kansas City, MO

04.09.05 @ Mojo’s, Columbia, MO
04.10.05 w/ DMBQ @ Gabe’s Oasis, Iowa City, IA
04.11.05 @ Vaudeville Mews, Des Moines, IA
04.12.05 @ Ralph’s Corner Bar, Fargo, SD
04.13.05 @ Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, MN
04.14.05 @ Points East, Milwaukee, WI
04.15.05 @ Main Stage, Green Bay, WI
04.16.05
w/ Afflictions, Outrageous Cheery, Blackfire Revelation @ Bottom Lounge,Chicago, IL
04.17.05 @ Hi-Pointe Café, St. Louis, MO
04.18.05 @ Mac’s, Lansing, MI
04.19.05 @ Lager House, Detroit, MI
04.20.05 @ Little Brothers, Columbus, OH
04.21.05 @ Elbo’s, Dayton, OH
04.22.05 w/ The Sadies @ Beachland Tavern, Cleveland, OH
04.23.05 w/ The Sadies @ Bug Jar, Rochester, NY
04.24.05 @ Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY
04.26.05 @ Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA
04.27.05 @ Cafe Nine, New Haven, CT
04.28.05 @ Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park, NJ
04.29.05 @ Knitting Factory, New York, NY
04.30.05 @ Full Moon Saloon, Baltimore, MD
05.01.05 Khyber, Philadelphia, PA
05.03.05 Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC
05.04.05 New Brookland Tavern, Columbia, SC
05.05.05 End, Nashville, TN
05.06.05 Pilot Light, Knoxville, TN

And then, presumably, back home to Atlanta to collapse. I got tired out just cutting and pasting all that.

Anyway, if you’re in Seattle, I’ll see ya at the Sunset. I’ll be the guy with the big dumb grin on his face. Buy me drinks and I will say nice things about you on the intarweb.

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