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The Booze

Drinking in the British Invasion

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You may not be able to go back in time, but as Hollywood proves, you can build a pretty effective soundstage facsimile. The Booze understands that. As its debut's title -- Easy Beats in Modern Time -- suggests, the band members are fans of the old Beat, or Merseybeat sound. Originating in England during the early '60s, it wed R&B with Chuck Berry-inspired rock 'n' roll, and was the touchstone for many British Invasion bands.

In the Booze's hands, it's heartening stuff. The backing "la-la-las" sound like a Greek chorus to singer Chaz Tolliver's plaintive tenor over catchy, jangling guitar on tracks such as "Callin Out to You." The group formed a couple years ago, when guitarist Randy Michael convinced Tolliver, his former Meadowcreek High classmate, to leave KillGordon and start their own "'60s soul/mod band."

Michael had just spent a couple years backing Butch Walker on bass. That's how he met Pipettes leader RiotBecki, the inspiration for Easy Beats' highlight, "Riot Girl." To a doo-wop sway, Tolliver offers up his amorous desires like a hungry fox staring at high fruit. It's sweet, innocent stuff that splits the difference between the spirit of Buddy Holly and the early sound of the Hollies.

But while they're undeniably looking back, the band's not standing still. They've started work on their second album, Straight No Chaser, which they hope to have ready for a planned February tour.

"It's more mysterious," says the band's new bassist, Jonathan Gleaton, who stalked them after seeing them at Atlantis last year. He takes over for Wes Flowers, who had shared writing responsibilities with Michael. Now the principal songwriter, Michael promises a rawer, more aggressive approach. "Our last record was a little bit clean, and this one's more like Yardbirds," he says. "It's grittier."

The Booze plays with Beat Beat Beat and Baby Shakes at Star Bar. 9 p.m. Thurs., Nov. 29. $8.

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