Prima Donna

Nine Lives and Forty-Fives

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The fourth studio long-player from the glittery glam rock/punk metal enthusiasts, Nine Lives and Forty-Fives is an unabashed love letter to '70s power pop, blue-collar juke joint swagger, and Sunset Strip glitz. More Redd Kross than Mötley Crüe, Prima Donna have some glam metal tendencies, but any predilection for big-hair excess is tempered by a seemingly genuine love of pop songcraft, and while they may not have any new ideas to add to the power pop pantheon, they've got the feel down pat. Derivative, yet amiably so, the 11-track set opens with the fiery "Pretty Little Head," a punk-addled semi-thrasher that threatens to bust into "Ballroom Blitz" at any given moment. Delivered with appropriate amounts of bluesy gusto and good-natured rabidity by frontman Kevin Preston, who also lends his pipes to Green Day's garage rock alter ego Foxboro Hot Tubs, it provides a suitable litmus test for listeners wondering whether or not they should go deeper into the cigarette butt-strewn rabbit hole. What follows are seven more originals and three capable, though far from groundbreaking, covers ("I'm on Fire" [Dwight Twilley], "Rock and Roll Is Dead" [the Rubinoos], and "Rip Her to Shreds" [Blondie]), with highlights arriving via the giddy, '90s alt-rock-inspired, handclap-laden "Deathless" and the meaty kiss-off anthem "Like Hell," the latter of which wouldn't have sounded out of place on a mid-period Social Distortion album. That said, as spirited and unpretentious as Nine Lives and Forty-Fives is, it's so myopic that it ultimately comes off as glam pop fan fiction, and with it Prima Donna fall victim to idiom. All sizzle, no steak, etc.

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