SMOKE & MIRRORS - The Downbeat 5 (Steel Cage)
Bostonians The Downbeat 5 are the sort of band you'd comfortably settle in and see every second weekend at your local debauched rock and roll hole. Or at least I would.
The Downbeat 5 are three grizzled veterans and easy-on-the-eye singer/rhythm guitarist Jen D'Angora play no frills/lotsa thrills, British invasion-inspired rock and roll. They're imbued with the same spirit that's fired a long line of Boston bands down the years, even if most of them seemed to have been content to be big in their own backyards without breaking out all over.
The husband-and-wife twin axis of JJ Rassler (guitar) and Jen D' Angora kicked off the 5 in 1999. If the former name seems especially familiar it's because it is - Rassler was in DMZ and The Queers and patented the raunchy chording that's all over this record. Hope it doesn't cause a domestic when I venture that his missus is the focal point. D'Angora has a voice that spells S-A-S-S-Y in big lights. There's the odd Joan Jett comparison floating around but this gal's got loads more edge. Seems a winning combo when matched with an engine room of the obvious quality of bassist Mike Yocco and drummer Eric Almquist. If Ms D'Angora overplays her vocal hand now and then, who cares?
The back story is this: With two studio albums under the belt the band decided to shoot for the live energy their shows are apparently renowned for, by inviting an audience to join them at a party in a studio. I've heard neither of their preceding works so can't tell you how they measure up, but the formula for "Smoke & Mirrors" (free beer + primed up garage rock and roll = fun) works. There's a fine mix of excellent, if not unforgettable, originals rubbing shoulders with classics from The Animals ("Outcast"), the Velvets ("Foggy Notion"), the Kinks ("Come On Now") and the Yardbirds ("Rack My Mind".)
The aim was to have a party and that's what it sounds like. As hard as it is to recapture the magic of a great live show when you convert the moment to a disc, be it vinyl or aluminium clad, The Downbeat 5 pull it off. I reckon they'd be formidable on their home turf with the backing of a local crowd.
The Downbeat 5 don't deliver anything any number of garage bands haven't over the years, but they do it better than most of their contemporaries. If you can't find something to like here, you're probably dead.– The Barman
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