No smoke, no mirrors. Just IN YOUR FACE rock'n'roll!
The Downbeat 5 was formed a decade ago by legendary Boston rocker J.J.Rassler, whom many of you might know from the band DMZ (along with future Lyres member Jeff Connolly). Rassler’s then-wife Jen shared a love for all things Dolls, Stooges and garage, tempered with a melodic pulse yet a fiery pace, and her prowling, howling vocals were the perfect complement to the piston engine that drove most of the songs in their repetoire.
Smoke and Mirrors was recorded live in a studio full of friends and guests, and the band proved it doesn’t know any speed but full. Plowing through some well chosen covers from The Kinks, The Yardbirds and The Velvet Underground along with a few of their own songs, The Downbeat 5 sound like The Detroit Cobras on a Red Bull buzz. I would have loved to have had my ears pinned back that night at Q Division studios!
Jen – now called Jen D’Angora – has the same gutteral yelp as The Muffs‘ Kim Shattuck, while Rassler plays the Johnny Ramone role by thrashing out infectious power chords and stinging guitar fills. But the band wouldn’t be half as much fun without the piledriving rhythm section of bassist Mike Yocco and drummer extraordinaire Eric Almquist (a monster player). Plus you have to love a band that thanks Ed Koch, Ratso Rizzo and the Olsen Twins in their liner notes…
The band’s 2005 release Victory Motel is sadly out of print (ping me if you have it!) but Ism is still available, and with a cut on the latest Little Steven Coolest Songs collection getting attention, hopefully there will be more albums to come. You’d be hard pressed to top this one for pure adreneline, though.
The Downbeat 5 website.
The Downbeat 5 MySpace page..
The Downbeat 5 rip the stuffing out of “Shake“.
A rousing “Dum Dum Ditty“, now rocking the Underground Garage.
Next one is "Number 9, Number 9..."
Little Steven’s Underground Garage is in full swing, and along with the well-selected bands he has chosen to sign to his label, I always look forward to the “coolest songs” collections that are frequently issued. How great is it to get a quarterly mixtape from one of the most knowledgeable music fans on the planet? Those of you who listen to the Underground Garage radio show know about Steven’s long-time tradition of dubbing a current favorite track “the coolest song in the world this week“, so you can imagine the breadth and scope of the material eight volumes in and counting.
The latest release features old and new, with veterans like Pete Best and David Bowie sharing disc time with young pups like The Skybombers. There are also old vets in new surroundings, like Man Raze (who knew Steve Cook from The Sex Pistols and Def Leppard‘s Phil Collen have a band??). Speedo – late of Rocket From The Crypt – rips through “Jump In The Fire” like a sore-throated Graham Parker. And if you think you recognize that organ playing on The Krayolas‘ cut, you’re right – that is Augie Meyers! Other standouts include tracks from The Broadway Calls and one of the most undearrated bands around, The Bleeding Hearts.
But this collection really belongs to the ladies. Anyone who’s a regular visitor to this site knows I’m all over Nicole Laurenne and The Love Me Nots, and Vibeke Saugestad‘s “Tonight” is irresistable girl-group Brill Building pop. And the 1-2 punch that opens the album is killer. Palmyra Delran‘s “Baby Should Have Known Better” will immediately send you to the racks looking for her EP (I bought one online as the disc was still spinning) and The Cute Lepers sound like The Clash via Joan Jett (not that it’s much of a stretch – the band is signed to Blackheart Records). Jen D’Angora (now there is a rock’n’roll name) and The Downbeat 5 light Tommy Boyce‘s “Dum Dum Ditty” on fire as the icing on the cake.
Little Steven’s mission is simple and straightforward – find great music, get it out there into the public ear, and hopefully get these bands some well-deserved attention (that hopefully translates into sales, gigs and the ability to sustain a career). Like always…game, set and match. Little Steven wins again.
All 8 volumes are available as physical CDs or digital downloads.
Filed under Music, Reviews