Band on the Bus

The High Strung are neither high nor strung; discuss

Dear Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, the letter begins. The High Strung (Josh, Derek, Mark and Chad) really do embody the spirit of rock 'n' roll.

As he continues his impassioned declaration, the letter's author, Josh Malerman, touches on many great themes: love, heroism, art, time and the extensions of man, to borrow a phrase from McLuhan. So what's the impetus behind High Strung singer/guitarist Malerman's mash note to the Rock Hall and what it embodies?

In a perversion of the "Junque for Jesus" ethos, the High Strung decided that what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame needed most was a heavily tagged (sample: "Mike Love, Not War") brokedick band bus. Their brokedick band bus, to be specific--complete with a helpfully attached plaque, which reads, in part, "This is a 1988 Chevy G30 used by The High Strung. Although the odometer reads 8,621 miles, it is actually 318,621 miles."

If you're thinking "publicity stunt," you'd be half-right--it was a stunt, but the only publicity of note gleaned from depositing the bus quite literally on the Rock Hall's doorstep was a passing mention in the Plain Dealer, Cleveland's daily paper, and coverage in the Metro Times, the alternative weekly in the group's hometown of Detroit. But no matter; this is a band for whom "the militant-optimism that is inherent in devoting your life to art" is a credo on the order of "Death Before Dishonor" or "Semper Fi."

Rather than being some bratty, unwarranted expression of upstart superiority, the High Strung's shenanigan demonstrates their embrace of the beauty and glory of rock's mythos as symbolized by the cherished institution that is the "Rockanrollallafame." And taken in toto, the incident actually goes a long way toward describing the band's sound: freewheeling, fun, spirited, ballsy, and most importantly, rocking, in the sense of the word that describes the overwhelming urge to shake that ass. In a rocking fashion.

Although the High Strung are occasionally discussed in the same breath as bands like the Mooney Suzuki (they have both utilized the services of "Garage King" Jim Diamond) or the Von Bondies (with whom they share a hometown), they're not one-note like the former (nor would they ever, ever enlist the services of the goddamn Matrix, as the M.S. did for their forthcoming album) or von boring like the latter. Instead, they deal in the type of straightforward rock that existed before all the prefixes (glam-, punk-, cock-, etc.). Call it plainbrownwrapper-rock.

Upon putting their debut full-length, These Are the Good Times, into the Crit-O-Matic (note: exists only as a literary device), it spat out comparisons to the Kinks and the Faces, perhaps the best two reference points for the aforementioned non-category in which the High Strung dwell. On tunes like "Wretched Boy" and "Rah Rah Rah!," they tap veins first mined by Big Star and Cheap Trick. But the High Strung don't get mired down in rock's history, despite their obvious reverence for it. And though no one would accuse them of being "cutting edge," they occupy a middle ground that's not middlebrow by embracing the contours of their chosen idiom: rock and fucking roll, man.

The High Strung's to-do list looks like this: 1) Tour 2) Tour 3) Tour, then Tour 4) Release second full-length (Moxie Bravo, recorded with Jim Diamond, is due out later in '04) 5) Tour foreign lands. As Malerman told that venerable institution Stuff magazine, "Anyone that bitches about being on the road is an asshole. You get to play your songs in a different city every night." That's moxie, alright, but will it be "bravo?" The Crit-O-Matic says "Mos def."

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