Tag Archives: The Paybacks

Under The Radar: The Downbeat 5

No smoke, no mirrors. Just IN YOUR FACE rock'n'roll

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 MuffsKim 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.

downbeat 5 live


Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews

Under The Radar: The Muggs

Rock didn't die. Not in Detroit, anyway.

Rock didn't die. Not in Detroit, anyway.

If you were wondering why no one seems to be carrying the torch for bands like Cactus and The James Gang and Humble Pie, you can stop. The Muggs play white-hot power trio blues rock like the aforementioned bands did; timeless riff-dominated, air-guitar, roll-down-the-window-and-blast-it glorious rock’n’roll…and they’re from Detroit, natch! But their brand of hard rock is an organic outgrowth from the classic origins, not an exhumation of days gone by. It’s somehow simultaneously fiery and tasty, subtle yet hammer headed. And my god, does it sound great when you play it loud.

(Hear some live Muggs from Can You Hear Me TV.)

The Muggs are a three-headed force of nature that share both musical and personal chemistry – the backstory to the band is as incredible as the music. Bass player Tony DiNardo suffered a severe stroke in 2001 that left him paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak. Unwilling to consider replacing him, his bandmates waited two years while he recovered and taught himself how to play the bass lines on a Fender Rhodes Mark 1 (and no, you can’t tell the difference). So now drummer Matt Rost locks down the groove with DiNardo once more, which frees up guitar monster Danny Methric (also the axeman for The Paybacks) so he can flat out wail. I could tell you their whole story, but why not  let the boys speak for themselves. 

They’ve won a slew of local awards, are getting great press and are building up a fanbase, but they probably have more fans in Europe than they do here in the States. Did we learn nothing from Jimi Hendrix? Apparently not…Mitch Ryder still lives and record in Germany because sometimes they just don’t get it over here. And no, they didn’t win The Next Great American Band contest – how could they? The Muggs play rock’n’roll music

The Muggs on MySpace.  Buy The Muggs and On With The Show.

The Muggs website is here. No, they are not the ugliest band in the world. Don’t make me name the band that is.




Filed under Features and Interviews, Music

Sometimes (Not) A Great Notion


Eric James Abbey, © 2006 McFarland Press



Reading a bad book is painful enough. Getting excited that a book covering a favorite topic exists, andthen  realizing it sucks? Priceless


Where do I start with this mess? The ham-fisted description of what “underground” means and how bands who don’t try to sell out upon conception are cool? That his favorite band is really neat because they don’t condone fighting or stealing girlfriends from other musicians? That The Hentchmen, The Gories and The Hard Lessons are mentioned but The Detroit Cobras and Mick Collins are barely discussed and The Paybacks don’t even rate a mention? That the major motivation for forming a garage band was rejecting capitalist thought patterns (!), not having fun and getting laid?


Waffling throughout, first The Who isn’t an integral part of the British Invasion. Two pages later, they’re the apex of the movement. Another two pages and they’re out again. Some obvious points (garage bands draw influence from the past as opposed to the present) are repeated breathlessly, while true critical observations are avoided altogether. Unsubstantiated claims, lyrical misinterpretations, geographic myopia…it’s all here, folks, even embarrassingly amateur editing and proofreading. My eyebrow arched when I read the name “Phil Specter” early on, but when I got to “Jimmy Hendrix”, I had to stop reading.


Maybe Abbey likes Detroit, likes the music and appreciates the bands. Great – so do countless other people. The irony here is that he got a book deal and delivered a faceless, boring piece of crap; in his own way, he is that corporate, soulless product that better writers – er, garage bands – are rejecting with their art.


Here are just a few of the points that our author is unable to comprehend:


(1)     All bands are underground until they become popular

(2)     A “scene” happens when a multitude of good music occurs simultaneously

(3)     The Small Faces were anything but an obscure act

(4)     If you are going to talk about the Pacific Northwest garage scene and not mention The Sonics or The Wailers, stop writing

(5)     People weren’t sitting on their collective asses in Detroit waiting for the garage scene to save them. Detroit rocks 24/7


I should have been tipped off, though. Any book that spends an eleven page introduction (eleven!) explaining what the following chapters are about is suspect from the start. If you have to explain what I’m about to read, you’re either an idiot or you’re discussing a David Lynch film. (Note: this book does not discuss David Lynch).


The one redeeming factor is the author’s man-woody for The Sights, a criminally unknown band whose influence is three parts Small Faces and two parts urban soul. If somehow this book – or my reaction to it – makes one  person pick up a Sights album, then the terrorists did not  win.


Most editors are failed writers – but so are most writers.  ~T.S. Eliot

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Filed under Music, Reviews