The Figgs

The Figgs Couldn't Get High

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The title Couldn't Get High might be more of a comment on the Figgs' chart rankings than an uninspired pot reference. After their 1996 release, Banda Macho, tanked in sales, Capitol Records dropped the Figgs, leaving them without a label, a source of income, a way to be high. Crawling back to the nickel-and-dime Absolute A Go Go to record Couldn't Get High, the Figgs only seemed to be plummeting further into indie rock hell, cursed to forever play college dorm lounges and the bar rock circuit. And if that weren't enough, High is disappointingly average. High trades in the aerial splits and dueling glam guitar found on Banda Macho for a sound far more pedestrian than any of the Figgs' previous efforts. Banda Macho and 1994's Low-Fi at Society High had the type of punked-up, Alice Cooper-inspired brattiness that helped listeners survive high school. But High simply doesn't dig in the way the Figgs can. This is partly due to muddy recording quality, but partly because the Figgs simply seem bored by their own material. Not to say High doesn't have its moments. The clapalong drumbeat, Jackson 5 guitar jangle, and pouty chorus on "Said Enough" find the Figgs comfortably mixing punk with Motown. The gutsy opening riff and closing chorus on "Wait on Your Shoulders" could outrock most tracks on Banda Macho. Drummer Pete Hayes makes his songwriting debut on "The Bar," a mean little garage number that could comfortably match riffs with Guns N' Roses. Guy Lyons and Mike Gent tease out the Thin Lizzy on "A Fuse About to Blow" with guitar interplay as fluid as anything in the Figgs' back catalog. Still, the album feels sluggish during songs like "Blinked My Eyes" and "Not Involved." Even High's good songs take less chances, inviting less air guitar and less pounding on the car ceiling. The Figgs will never fail to make Graham Parker and Elvis Costello proud any day of the week. But on the whole, Couldn't Get High more or less leaves you feeling that way.

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