Prima Donna have been reliably pumping out scuzzy, Dolls-indebted rock for over a decade and have finally made the album they have long been threatening to. “Nine Lives and Forty-Fives” is a step up for Kevin Preston and co., a rollicking 33 minute drive into the seedy underbelly of L.A…the songs are sharper, the attack both more precise and menacing, and the choruses reach for the rafters. The spy-theme riff that underpins first single “Deathless” worms its way into your skull, and the driving “Rubbish” matches pounding keys with a staccato guitar slash that wouldn’t sound out of place on “L.A.M.F.”; when Aaron Minton’s sax bleats out a quick run in the middle, you’d be hard pressed not to floor the accelerator and just give yourself over to the rush.
The production, courtesy of California punk stalwarts Bruce Duff (Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, Triple X records) and Paul Roessler (the savagely underrated Screamers, 45 Grave, dozens of others), is just the right amount of raw…this is a band that benefits from scuffing up the veneer a bit, and Duff and Roessler have a very good handle on how to keep one foot in the gutter. Not everything here works – “I’m On Fire” is generic and too “bloozy” by half and “Tattooed Love Girl” seems to be a bit TOO in love with the riff and rhythm of Jim Carroll’s “Friends Who Died” - but album centerpiece “Rock and Roll is Dead” belies its own title and shows exactly how precise and powerful a band Prima Donna have become. Roll down the windows, clap along and play this fucker loud!