July 22, 2004



Noted producer adds polish to the punch

The Forty-Fives have cleaned up their act.

Fans needn't be alarmed, though -- on its third album, High Life High Volume (Yep Roc Records), the Atlanta combo fires away with plenty more of the feverish British Invasion-style blasts that made 2002's Fight Dirty such a delightfully trashy romp. But this time, there's more variety and polish to the band's punch, courtesy of co-producer and noted Detroit knobsman Jim Diamond (The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs).

The enhanced approach -- quickly made evident with some prominent saxophone on the opening track -- not only bolsters the band, but also seemingly helps foster a newfound versatility. So, while there are such trademark moments as the organ-driven, fire-drill rave-ups "C'mon Now Love Me" and "Superpill," High Life's highest points are its most diverse.

"Junkfood Heaven" is a stab at straight-ahead power-pop, with requisite crunching guitars and some apparent vocal gadgetry that allows singer-guitarist Bryan G. Malone a throatier yowl. The raucous "Go Ahead and Shout" soars on the strength of howling harmonica work by The Dirtbombs' Mick Collins. And prominent backing vocals -- Deanne Iovan's voice bursts through the mix -- help make Otis Blackwell's "Daddy Rolling Stone" (another in the band's well-chosen canon of covers) a mandatory sing-along.

While such rollicking numbers are clearly still the life of the party for The Forty-Fives, just as notable are the album's mellower moments that mark a bit of a departure. The soul-smeared ballad "Too Many Miles" is aided by shimmering horns that only add to the lonesome longing. That number is immediately followed by the loose, upbeat twang of "Bicycle Thief" that unfortunately proves all too brief.

It all makes High Life High Volume an aptly named album; a spin through it feels like a loud and proud celebration of a band capturing and redefining perhaps its truest, fullest sound. At this shindig, there is room at the bar for garage rockers, cowpunks and Memphis hip shakers alike.

-- By George Henn

Posted by medleyville at July 22, 2004 10:04 PM