…boy, i dunno. As much as i liked what i heard off the first album, and as much as i am inclined to believe that J.J. Rassler generally does good work, all i hear here (note clever Hollies reference) is—quote me on this—A BUNCH OF ROCK (the band is welcome to take this as a compliment, though it was not intended as such). I mean, if the Paybacks are AC/DC—and who’s to say they’re not?—then the Downbeat 5 are now April Wine. Great. We’ll call you when we need another favor, or a theme for homecoming or something. This situation is hardly helped by the inclusion of a way-too-Blondie Shangri-La’s number, “Out in the Streets,” but, suddenly! Without prior notification! At the exact moment that one would assume the vinyl equivalent of the CD would commence side two (well, okay, there’s ten songs. I figure “side two” starts on track 6. If you fault my math, show me yours), the record, shockingly, stops sucking. The band abruptly drops the loathsome and undistinguished “A BUNCH OF ROCK” bit, and resumes the high energy, sweet ‘n’ crunchy r’n’r hijinx of their earlier efforts with “Army of One,” following it up with a second (?!) Shangri-La’s cover, this time “Dum Dum Ditty,” a song far more to my liking than “Out in the Streets” (exactly. “Dum Dum Ditty” is superior to “Out in the Streets” because “Out in the Streets” is semi-stupid, and “Dum Dum Ditty” is ALL THE WAY stupid. You know me too well, Montresor!). These two resounding avengements of the first side’s unmeasurable shititude are followed by “Lonesome Town,” a cool cover ballad whose origins i cannot place, and another quality original (“Climbin’ the Walls”), but the last song is a repeat dose of the Rock Dross of the first side, and thusly cannot be abided. All i can think of is that this band saw the Paybacks, marveled (understandably) at their greatness, and, in their youthful (er…) vigor, attempted a sort of ill-advised emulation that they will, in due time, look back upon with proper embarrassment. Please record another album when you are feeling better. BEST SONG: “Dum Dum Ditty” BEST SONG TITLE: “Dum Dum Ditty” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The Imperial 400 Motel—depicted on the top of the album’s back cover—stands (albeit in more dilapidated form), to this day, directly across the street from my PO Box. Once, me and Michael Lucas hung out there and watched Dan Quayle give a speech to a bunch of farmers in Iowa on TV. It was fun.
–norb (Abbey Lounge)