In the mid ’70s, I worked as assistant manager for a swimming pool where the boss would lend me his Dodge Superbee. The groundskeeper and I would take it on morning runs to the supply warehouse for cardboard barrels of chlorinating compound that we’d stow in the back. The return trip was always a toxic ride, as halogen-scented powder blew through the driving compartment. Eyes watering, we’d roll down the windows and stomp on it, hoping the high velocity of the Superbee would clear the cockpit.
It’s an extended (or tortured) metaphor for L.A.’s Superbees: rock band as poorly used muscle car, deserving better than drudgery as transport for the chemically baked—in their case, Saturday night rock for the penniless of publand in Silver Lake. Stoically, the Superbees endure it and deliver High Volume, hoping to wax any name-brand heavy if someone would just stick them in an arena with a back line of amplification taller than they are.
The effort electrifies, but ultimately comes up a few volts short of the Superbees’ intimidating stage presence. (Hardly hard-rock atypical—Foghat, for example, didn’t commit the juice they delivered in person to vinyl until five albums in, on Fool for the City.) Still, asphalt-smashing guitar verities are all in place—the squealing double-stops, bluesy power bends and hammer-ons—so that when the Superbees get beyond the cant of Detroit veneration, the big joy of crunching rock and roll emerges, head held high. Two songs on HV are righteously stiff-necked in this manner: “Move Me” ‘s rebel yell, and the coarse tale of the “Glue Sniffer,” a worthless bum who beats a dog with a stick whilst listening to Blue Öyster Cult on a cassette deck.