Low Dives for Highballs

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Although history ultimately consigned the Roll-Ups to the dustbin of obscurity, there are few records that could possibly be described as brighter, cheerier, or more exciting or uplifting than Low Dives for Highballs, the band's first and only LP. Frontman and songwriter Lea Hart was kicking out pop classics as though they were going out of favor -- the opening "Blackmail" in particular matches Nick Lowe with Radio Stars, while successive rockers "Last Night," "Where's the Money," and "It's Up to You" (and on to the end of the disc) fizz and bounce around so many compulsive hooks that it's hard to believe they all remain unsung. Hart himself did not give up on them, and swaths of the album would be preserved across his next band's repertoire. But former Bay City Roller Ian Mitchell's La Rox fared even poorer than the Roll-Ups, and so the most astonishing pop package of the early '80s sank without trace. But Low Dives lives on, both as a souvenir of a seething songbook and a reminder of the sheer power that the Roll-Ups kicked out in concert. The final song on the vinyl issue, "Roll-Ups Gave Me a Bad Name," was recorded live at their traditional stomping ground at the Bridgehouse pub, and if you don't agree that the ghosts of the Small Faces are draped across the record, then you were clearly born with no soul.

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